By his own admission, Richard Smith’s life wasn’t going how he’d imagined it would.
“I was on drugs, and having a hard time with life,” he says.
Smith is standing in a hallway at Hope House Ministries in Bowling Green, Ky., a local advocacy organization that assisted him with getting back on his feet following years of substance use issues. He’s wearing his work uniform, his first name stitched in cursive on a badge on his chest. He seems at ease with where he is now, and looking forward to where he wants to be.
“Pretty much, if it wasn't for these people to give me the opportunity to come here to Hope House and straighten my life up, I’d probably still be in jail today,” says Smith, a native of Morgantown.
Smith first came to Hope House in June 2019, and after six months was required to get a job to help continue his recovery. That was when he first met Meredith Hester, a job entry and retention support specialist with the Strategic Initiative for Transformational Employment (SITE). Hester was able to quickly connect Smith with a new job, and that job has played an important role in helping him plan for his next steps.
An initiative of the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program (EKCEP), Inc. and funded by the Kentucky Opioid Response Effort (KORE), SITE is designed to bridge the gulf between recovery and workforce for individuals active in their recovery. SITE provides valuable career, training, and supportive services while actively cultivating second-chance job opportunities.
In her role as a support specialist, Hester cultivated a working partnership with Hope House to assist recovering individuals there with employment opportunities. She received Smith’s case as a referral, and she quickly connected him with a position working at the Bowling Green operation for Bando, a leading producer of automotive parts.
“Basically she did all the footwork. I just had to say yes, I want the job,” he says. “She sent them my résumé and stuff, she did all that. It was just a blessing for me.”
Those sorts of connections are important, Smith adds, especially for himself and his fellow SITE participants at Hope House who may have backgrounds that could prevent some employers from considering them for open positions.
“We’re convicted felons, most of us are,” he says. “It’s kind of hard to get a job because most places of employment don’t like to look at felons.”
Smith began working full-time on Dec. 16 making serpentine belts for automobiles. It’s the first time he has a job that offers eight hours of work per day and benefits like health insurance. It represented a big step, and one he may not have taken had he not been able to work with the SITE program.
“It’s quite a blessing to have a job in my recovery because now I’ve got something to look forward to every day instead of just where I was going to get my next fix,” he says.
For more information about SITE in the South Central Kentucky workforce area, contact Meredith Hester at firstname.lastname@example.org or 270-991-7248, or find program updates on Facebook at facebook.com/siteky.
This article was originally published by EKCEP.