If you are a felon in Philadelphia, even the move to change the term ex-offender to ‘returning resident’ will not be much help when looking for jobs.
One way that the government goes about trying to help provide jobs for felons in PA is through the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) (http://www.doleta.gov/business/incentives/opptax/) program. This works by giving employers an incentive in the form of tax breaks if they employ former prisoners. The tax credit per employee ranges from $1,200 to $9,600 depending on the type of person being employed.
For anyone with a criminal record, you need to be creative when it comes to finding employment. The value of networking cannot be overemphasized. Get in touch with people you knew before you went to prison, join local groups where possible such as the Chamber of Commerce and religious organizations if you are religious.
Many ex-inmates will find that their churches or religious groups will help them find employment. Even former inmates can also be a great source of information on companies that are employing ex-felons.
Job Search Websites for Former Inmates
The Internet is a great source of information when searching for jobs for convicted felons in Philadelphia. General searches for ‘companies that hire felons’ or ‘felon-friendly companies’ can help you to find places you can apply to for work. Searching online will give you many hits for organizations that post job listings and names of companies that employ felons.
It will also provide links and information to organizations that offer assistance in helping you write and send out resumes. Many organizations online also offer training to ex-prisoners to help them improve their skills and improve their chances of finding gainful employment.
Some websites that are worth searching when looking for jobs for felons in Philadelphia are:
- JEVS Human Services Job Seekers Guide (http://pa.jobseekersguide.org/career-information-for-ex-offenders): This website offers advice and lists programs that are dedicated to helping the ex-inmate find jobs.
- The National HIRE Network (http://www.hirenetwork.org/content/pennsylvania): This website helps employers learn about the benefits they can get if they hire ex-felons.
- Job Sense (http://www.jobsense.com/advice/17088909.html): The tips and advice on careers coupled with the active discussion forum are good sources of information and leads to jobs.
- The Society for Employment and Equal Rights (https://www.phillykeyspots.org/sites/default/files/EmplymentResourceGuide12.pdf): This document offers good information for former inmates in PA looking for work. It also provides a list of places where free Internet is available to assist in job searches and resume preparation.
Some other programs in Philly that are aimed at helping those persons released from prison get back into society include:
- The Mayor’s Office of Reintegration Services (RISE) (http://rise.phila.gov/): RISE works with other groups to provide information and services to help ex-felons with job preparation and re-entering society.
- IMPACT Services Corporation (http://www.impactservices.org/reentry-services-for-ex-offenders/): This website is a virtual treasure trove for the ex-felon. It offers information on employment opportunities and training which is not specifically directed at ex-felons. This organization also offers housing help to those in need.
Companies that Hire Ex-Felons
Not all companies have a strict policy of not employing anyone with a criminal background. Ex-felons will often find employment opportunities in the fast food and restaurant industries, chain stores, nightclubs and construction. Some companies to check out if you are a felon in need of work are:
- Goodwill stores
- Dunkin’ Donuts
When searching for a job as an ex-felon, your chances improve with smaller companies, especially if you can speak directly to the owner or person hiring. Creating your own employment is also an option. If you have a skill that people need, using it may be your best option for earning an income. The Internet has made it possible for many people to start successful freelance businesses. Are you good at writing? You may be able to start a career as a freelance content writer.
Housing for Felons in Philadelphia
One of the main needs of anyone who has been in prison is housing. Unfortunately, not all ex-offenders will have an easy time finding a suitable place to call home. The system is normally stacked against anyone who has a criminal record. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/states/pennsylvania) is always a good start when looking for suitable housing as an ex-inmate. Being convicted of a felony does not totally bar you from benefiting from some HUD programs.
The Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) (http://www.pha.phila.gov/housing/admissions.aspx) is also a worthwhile option for finding housing. This agency handles the Section 8 program and those who can benefit are not automatically disqualified because they have a criminal conviction. Certain drug crimes, sexual offenses and some violent crimes can however make it impossible to benefit under Section 8.
Like anywhere else, having a stigma attached to you can make life difficult. However, with determination and support from friends, loved ones and the organizations that exist to help, ex-felons can start over.