The nonviolent offenders can live at Alvis facilities, but everyone who comes through the workforce development program has to overcome gaps in employment, as well as possibly a lack of work experience, substance abuse issues or a lack of transportation.
“The biggest barrier that we work on with our clients is the prejudice that many employers have about hiring people that have been involved in the criminal justice system, but Alvis’ response to the barrier is we make our clients more attractive to potential employers because we increase their skills,” Robinson says.
Alvis also prescreens the applicants and does routine drug testing.
While Alvis has developed its expertise down to a science, there are still challenges like how to provide more treatment services for the rise in opiate addiction.
“We do assessments on every person that walks through our door, and when they walk through the door and we do that assessment and we see how many people fall within a certain criteria, then we realize, OK, we need to put more resources here,” she says.
Alvis responds to needs, and because of that, a lot of resources go to substance abuse treatment right now.
“But you can’t let the other things go by the wayside, either. So, in my job, I’m always seeking new opportunities to be able to provide services for our clients,” Robinson says.
That can mean pooling resources. The Franklin County Reentry Coalition, which includes nonprofits, legislators, judges and city officials, comes together to talk about the issues, the needs of the population and how to provide resources, she says.
Another collaboration Alvis is a part of is Restoration Academy. The academy, started by former Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman, takes people who have been in the criminal justice system, trains them and then hires them to work for the city. The program has continued under the new mayor but it’s no longer just Columbus hiring the trainees.
Whether it provides its services directly or through partnerships, one thing the organization knows is that it’s doing good work. There’s a reason Alvis has gone from one small halfway house to more than 40 locations across the state.