Supported accommodation supports ex-prisoners onto a positive path
For people who have been in prison for some time, the prospect of release is often met with mixed feelings. There’s the welcome feeling of being able to be back in control of your own destiny, but with that, comes a pervasive sense of uncertainty. “I wanted to be my own boss and not be in limbo anymore, but finding places that I could stay when I got out was a challenge,” explains Dave, who had been in prison for a little over seven years before rejoining the community with the help of PARS - People At Risk Solutions.
While in prison, Dave had signed the house that he had owned for 27 years over to his partner. They had subsequently separated, so he was stuck, with no place to go upon release. "I have brothers and sisters both in Auckland and around the country, but I wanted to finish my probation in Auckland and I wanted to prove to my family that I could be independent," explains Dave.
Dave said he first found out about PARS while he was in prison. "I was told that they could help me with a place to stay. What they actually did was so much more than just that - they helped me get back on my feet after my release, which was my biggest worry."
For Dave, living independently was a big thing; he had been with his partner since school, so he had never really faced the world on his own before. PARS provided just the support that Dave needed; through the supported accommodation service, Dave was offered an apartment on K' Road. "If not for this, I would have been really stressed. Because I had owned my own home for so long, it was hard to find a reference and I didn't want to make contact with, or have to rely on, any of my old scene," Dave said.
"Right from my release, I was helped onto the right track. PARS picked me up and spent most of that first day with me, helping me to renew my license, sort my tax number, and get food and the other support I would need to pay rent for the apartment. It was a huge relief to have some of that scary stuff taken care of - that's what kept me going to get started with, when times were tough!" says Dave.
Dave spent 11 weeks in the apartment provided through PARS' supported accommodation service, making friends with the building manager and several of his neighbours. "They were a bit stand-offish to start with, but I would smile and say hello. When I started going out on the fishing boats, I would bring back fish for them and from there they warmed up!" exclaims Dave.
Checking in with PARS at least once a week, Dave worked with the team to find alternate accommodation that would help him to further integrate himself back into the community, and transition out of PARS' service towards independence.
Now living independently within the community, Dave is a perfect example of how the supported accommodation sets ex-prisoners up for a positive future. "Without PARS I would have struggled," Dave admits. "They have been awesome - such a big help!"
Although Dave hasn't needed to check in with the team at PARS for some time, he still stops by regularly for a visit and a chat. "I'm so appreciative of the difference they made for me. I even sometimes bring them fish!" Dave adds with a grin.
PARS have recently helped Dave in applying for a new passport and he's excited to be heading to Rarotonga soon to celebrate a milestone birthday. "Even when I'm not in their care anymore, the team at PARS still go above and beyond," says Dave. "I would recommend them to anyone in a similar situation to where I've been as it was the difference for me of being able to make a positive life for myself."
When asked where he wants to be in five years, Dave answers "a respected member of the community." Looking to the future, James' dream is to go back home to Whakatane and build a house on his family's land on the beach. Right now though, Dave is successfully working on the fishing boats. "I want to not only be a positive role model for my kids, but also save what I need to retire down the line and set myself up there."