Monday, April 17, 2017
Mayor Jorge O. Elorza today joined elected officials, Director of Economic Opportunity Brian Hull, representatives from Workforce Solutions of Providence/Cranston (WSPC), OpenDoors Executive Director Sol Rodriquez, Providence Housing Authority Executive Director Paul J. Tavares, and Providence Public Safety officials to highlight the RHODES to Employment Program managed by OpenDoors. The program, made possible through a $500,000 U.S Department of Labor grant, provides pre-release work readiness services, career counseling, employment education, and case management to successfully reintegrate incarcerated individuals.
“Now, more than ever, Providence needs to lead the way in providing the most marginalized members of our community pathways to good paying jobs and ultimately self-sufficiency,” said Mayor Elorza “I’m proud of the work being done by the Office Of Economic Opportunity, OpenDoors and project partners to provide ex-offenders specialized support for a fresh start and a better life.”
The Providence/Cranston Workforce Development Board, the leading agency for the project, in partnership with the City’s Office of Economic Opportunity, issued a request for proposal for a Project Manager to oversee the program and coordinate the operation of REP partners. OpenDoors, selected as the program manager, will coordinate services among the program partners including Greater Rhode Island Workforce Development Board (GRIWDB), the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training (RIDLT), and the Rhode Island Department of Corrections (RIDOC). As project manager, OpenDoors will also be responsible for financial and data management.
A report from the RIDOC, which notes that in fiscal year 2016, it processed 3,472 releases, with 44% reporting their return to Providence or Pawtucket, and an additional 18% reporting a return to Cranston, Warwick, and West Warwick. Research has shown that when given support systems during incarceration and after release, individuals are more likely to improve their own quality of life and skill sets.
Mayor Elorza has recently expanded efforts to address income inequality in Providence and transform the City’s workforce development system by appointing Brian Hull as Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity. In this role, Hull has begun to reshape workforce development to better meet the needs of low-skilled, low-income residents, including ex-offenders and others with barriers to employment.
“Our office’s mission is to expand opportunities for the City’s unemployed residents to gain the skills and credentials needed to succeed in the 21st Century economy,” said Director of Economic Opportunity Brian Hull. “We’re realizing this mission through a strategic and comprehensive approach to delivering employment services, skills training, and other forms of support targeting low-income persons and economically distressed neighborhoods.”
The announcement follows recent criminal justice reform advocacy by Mayor Elorza resulting in amendments to the Providence Housing Authority’s (PHA) admissions policy for individuals with a criminal history. Mayor Elorza emphasized the importance of affordable housing, skills training, and employment to ensure that ex-offenders can reintegrate into society and achieve economic security and self-sufficiency.
In addition, the Office of Economic Opportunity is the key employment partner with the PHA on their Jobs Plus Providence (JPP) initiative. JPP offers employment-related and other support services, industry-driven training programs, pre-apprenticeship and registered apprenticeships, and wrap-around supportive services, designed to increase the rate of employment and annual earnings for residents of Hartford Park and Manton Heights.
These efforts signal Mayor Elorza’s commitment to addressing income inequality in the City of Providence and ensuring that those with criminal histories gain access to the services and programs necessary for them to rebuild their lives.