AUSTIN (Nexstar) — A national organization helping connect people with criminal records to employment and housing opportunities is launching in Texas.
TimeDone Texas held a resource fair Saturday with 300 Austinites who signed up for help.
“There are over 5 million people in Texas alone who have some sort of arrest or conviction, some type of record, and we are blocked out from the resources that help us to reenter society successfully,” Maggie Luna with TimeDone Texas explained Saturday. “So this day is to connect people to resources so we can become successful.”
She experienced those difficulties herself, having been in and out of prison and jail for nearly 20 years.
“Every time I would get out, I would go to apply for a job and I’d be denied. I had three children I could not provide housing for, nobody wanted to rent to me. I would get to the second, third interview, be totally qualified, but then that box would knock me out,” Luna explained.
“There are over 1,500 barriers in Texas alone for people with a record or conviction. Those barriers continue to perpetuate the cycle,” she continued.
Luna was able to finally overcome those barriers once she connected to a community.
“I was released for the last time in 2018 and this time I was connected to a community of people who had walked the same path that I had been through. I’d talked to doctors and educators that tried to fix me, but they weren’t facing the same things that I was facing. They didn’t understand, I couldn’t just go get a job. They didn’t understand, just go get an apartment,” she explained.
Saturday’s event featured about a dozen tables with different resources.
“We have jobs, employment, we have UPS here, and we have the workforce that can help people with education. We have a background check so people can see what’s on their record and what they have to overcome. We also have credit.org,” Luna explained.
Matthew Marx was able to find a job when he was released two years ago, although with some difficulty. Now, he needs help finding a home of his own.
“I’m finding it difficult to find a place to live and I have a lady in the program that is helping me because I don’t want to get stuck paying a bunch of application fees only for them to deny me because of my background,” Marx said at Saturday’s event.
“It’s about $150 for each application, each application you fill out for a rental property. And yeah, I got stuck paying them and then getting denied,” Marx said.
Apartment locator Rebecca Pinkard was helping with that problem at Saturday’s event.
“We do prequalify, and one of my jobs is to prevent them from losing the application fees. And there are some management companies that will waive the application fees and the administration fees,” Pinkard said.
She said she also has partnerships with some property management companies who are willing to accept those with a record.
“A lot of them are not aware. I met a gentleman today and he had been working on this job for 10 years. He was not aware that he was able to get an apartment. Matter of fact, I have an appointment with him on Monday,” Pinkard added.
It’s also about hope for those who have served their time behind bars.
“I didn’t know that I can go to prison and be somebody, I thought I would go to prison, and continue that cycle. And so this is important to me,” Luna said.