Aug 29, 2014

Services for individuals with disabilities two people sitting at a table

Posted on Aug 29, 2014


Having trained in prison for 1,500 hours to be an apprentice barber, John Hawkins said he is more than ready to make some positive changes in his life. John has spent much of his adult life incarcerated and it took him three months to find a master barber in town who was willing to give him an opportunity to work another 1,500 hours to qualify for his master’s license.

John said that this time he feels more confident that he will be successful primarily because he now has the support of his family, including six children, who range from 9 to 32 years old, plus his six grandchildren. John also enjoys being with people at the Church of the Master’s Love in North Minneapolis.

After his release from prison, John was staying at a temporary shelter. He called a crisis line and was referred to Rise’s Anoka County Housing Support Services program for transitional housing. “It was one of the best things that ever happened to me,” John added.

He moved into one of Rise’s transitional housing units in Spring Lake Park in May and will be able to live there for up to two years as he works on developing his career, increasing his earnings, and becoming more self-sufficient. Housing Practitioner Brenda Sorgdrager meets with John weekly to help him set and achieve his goals. She is also helping him submit housing application forms for when he’s ready to move out of Rise’s transitional housing.

“I really like living here for now,” said John of his furnished apartment. “I have a place to call home, a place that’s just for me, and it feels good.”

Brenda helped John secure a much-needed and appreciated donation from St. Timothy’s Church in Blaine to purchase basic equipment so he could launch his barbering career at a shop in Anoka County. He plans to apply to Rise’s new Advancing Lives Fund when it is established in October which will enable him to take some additional barbering courses at Minneapolis Community and Technical College in downtown Minneapolis.

He hopes to greatly expand his clientele in the coming months. John works primarily evenings, six days a week at the barber shop, and spends many days looking for additional employment. Brenda is encouraging and supportive of John’s job search.

“Brenda is my rock,” he added. “She keeps me grounded and gives me the extra nudge or push I need sometimes. I couldn’t make all these changes without her; she’s a great counselor.”

“It’s really a pleasure working with John because he is so motivated — he really makes my job easier,” said Brenda. “He knows exactly what he wants to do with his life and I’m just trying to give him the tools to do it. It’s all John.”

“My kids see the big difference in me and they love it,” said John. “They will call just to see how I’m doing and that really makes my day – it keeps me motivated to do well. My daughter tells me how proud she is of me. I can’t let them down and I can’t let myself down.

“Without Rise, I don’t know where I’d be,” said John “It takes a lot of stress off me to know that I can take my time to get it all together, one step at a time. I can see a great future for me now.”

John is featured in the Advancing Lives Fund video which will be shown at the Celebrate Rise Fundraising Gala on October 2. This article appears in the September 2014 issue of the Rise Reporter.

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