Ex-inmates, advocates find resources at reentry fair

Having a criminal record makes it difficult for formerly incarcerated men and women to find work, and having a serious injury doesn’t help, said a York City man Thursday at a reentry services resource fair.

James Greer Sr., 57, got out of jail in 2015 after serving time for a drug delivery conviction.

Before he went to jail, Greer said he’d worked at Danskin for 17 years, followed by five years on a trash truck route and eight years working at a hospital in Harrisburg.

“I kept jobs,” he said. “I like to work, but right now my health won’t let me.”

Since his release from jail, which was followed by a serious injury that landed him on disability insurance after an upstairs balcony collapsed onto him, Greer said he’s had a hard time getting back on his feet.

He attended the reentry services fair hoping to get some help.

About two dozen organizations in York County participated in the inaugural Reentry Services Fair, held at the York City campus of Stillmeadow Church of the Nazarene and sponsored by the York County Reentry Coalition.

Tim Barker, first assistant district attorney, said most of the organizations that were at the fair are accessible by phone or online, but the fair allows people to con- nect with several agencies under one roof and maybe learn about resources they might not have known were available.

“There’s just something different about being there in person,” he said.

Reentrants weren’t the only ones who benefited, either.

Amy Chidester, a drug and alcohol assessor with the county’s probation department, said she attended the fair to make sure she was up to date on the all of the services available to her clients.

She said she was surprised to learn that 211, the public hotline that connects callers with health and safety resources, also has an emotional listening support line, which people can call to talk to someone about their feelings and frustrations.

For people in recovery who are also adjusting to life outside of jail, this could be a vital service to help them remain sober by providing a different outlet, Chidester said.

“That’s greatly needed sometimes,” she said. “There’s not always the best family or social support system.”

Chidester is stationed at York County Prison. She said about half of the people she works with end up going home after their release, while the other half go to rehab.

The York County Reentry Coalition held a job fair in June specifically to connect former inmates with employers who were committed to providing second chances, but Thursday’s fair was more broad-based, Barker said.

Eventually, the coalition would like to hold miniature fairs in other parts of the county, Barker said, and he hopes the overall reentry services fair continues annually.

The York County Reentry Coalition is a partnership between the state Department of Corrections, Geo Reentry Services, Pennsylvania CareerLink, the state Board of Probation and Parole, the state Department of Labor and Industry and Office of Vocational Rehabilitation and the workforce development company EDSI.