SNAP Benefits Offered Me the Security to Focus on My Future
“For individuals returning from incarceration,” Christopher says, “financial support is needed immediately. Without my SNAP benefits, I hate to imagine what life would have been like for me coming home. I never want to be in that position of desperation.”
Because of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), rather than having to spend money on food, Christopher was able to focus his funds elsewhere, notably on essential work-related items like clothes for job interviews. He says that SNAP benefits provided him security, peace of mind, and more ability to invest his earned income in himself.
“SNAP gave me the freedom to focus on my future.”
According to Christopher, that freedom allowed him to avoid getting caught up in the usual pitfalls of reentry. Instead, he was able to concentrate on getting his life back on track and moving on to the next phase.
In September, Christopher began transitional work at the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO). His job entailed landscaping and maintenance labor, as well as various functions associated with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT), such as debris removal from local highways.
Before becoming a CEO participant, Christopher was not aware that he was eligible to receive SNAP benefits, and he credits CEO staff in Oklahoma City for advising him and assisting with the process. On his first day of CEO orientation, he had successfully enrolled in the SNAP program, and within a matter of weeks he was collecting benefits.
“Coming out of prison and immediately receiving SNAP benefits, in addition to my daily income from CEO; that was a game-changer for me. I don’t know what I would’ve done without it.”
Christopher insists that having this support, along with fundamental job skills training through CEO, a SNAP Employment & Training partner in Oklahoma, ultimately allowed him to advance to permanent, full-time employment, and accordingly higher earned wages. Moreover, he feels that the partnership provided him the opportunity to explore his “entrepreneurial potential.”
In addition to starting his own cleaning company, “Value Cleaning Services”, Christopher is also a public speaker, and co-author of Conversations Through the Vent: A Glorious Tale of Redemption, which he describes as “a story about two inmates struggling to conquer their own demons and do the unexpected—recreate themselves.” Christopher was thrilled to learn that Emily Ray, the Site Director at CEO’s Oklahoma City office, had purchased 50 copies of the book and distributed them to fellow participants.
“CEO believed in me, supported my dreams, and gave me the confidence to continue.”
Christopher says that he was inspired by the organization’s willingness to invest in his career and provide him a platform. He intends to reach more people with his story in the hopes that it will help others facing similar life situations.
For those who would like to read more about Christopher and his work, or to purchase a copy of his book, please visit his website: https://christopherjoaks.com.
CEO and our participants advocate for the removal of barriers to employment, including ensuring individuals have access to SNAP and SNAP Employment & Training during training. To learn more about CEO’s policy advocacy, visit https://ceoworks.org/policy-advocacy