William

“When I moved to Rhode Island, I didn’t know anyone. I was homeless, I didn’t have a job, and I didn’t have $5 to my name.  OpenDoors helped me get a vender’s license, business license, and tax ID number to start selling natural beauty products online. I am a certified licensed welder, and with OpenDoors’ help, I was able to get a welding job in June. Now, I am working five days a week, with 10-hour shifts. For me, each day on the right path is another day of sobriety, God consciousness, family, and community.” -William

William, can you tell me about your experience coming to Rhode Island and trying to find a job?

I left my job in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in Oct. 2007 to come to Rhode Island to try to get custody of my daughter and support her. I had a steady job in Pennsylvania, and had been approved by Children and Family Services there to take custody of my daughter. But, even though I visited her every weekend for a year to show my commitment, Rhode Island wouldn’t let me take her. They wanted me to move to Rhode Island and establish a job and household here.
    When I moved to Rhode Island, I didn’t know anyone. I was homeless, I didn’t have a job, and I didn’t have $5 to my name.  But, I had really good reference letters from my old job and from community leaders.  For the first three months, I stayed at the shelter (Crossroads and Urban League) while I was trying to find a job and establish myself here.  Someone else in the shelter system told me about OpenDoors, so I went there to try to find some support.  Through OpenDoors, I was able to find some temporary jobs. I took the Employment Seminar, attended the Men’s Support Group, and visited Brother Everett, the resource center coordinator, once a week.  I also found support through the Muslim community at Masjid Al Karam.  I am a certified licensed welder, and with help from OpenDoors, I was able to get a job at the Shipyard as a welder. Because of my license, I was paid well, but I faced a lot of racial and religious prejudice.  Even though I did an excellent job, I was demoted to laborer at $8 an hour for these reasons.  Basically, although I wasn’t fired, they forced me out by demoting me. It really threw me for a loop, but Sol and Jesse at OpenDoors sat with me and supported me through it.
    Unfortunately, I was out of work for about two or three months. During this time, OpenDoors helped me get a vender’s license, business license, and tax ID number, and now I am selling natural beauty products.  I am also taking a class at OpenDoors to learn how to run an online business, and am starting to sell my products online as well.  In June, I was able to get a new welding job at American Surplus.  I am now working five days a week, with 10-hour shifts.  I like my new job even more, because my boss has more confidence in me, and I have a lot more independence.  I was able to rent a three-bedroom apartment, and I even have a little money saved up.  Throughout this time, the Islamic community also helped me by raising almost $1,000 for my rent and security deposit once I found an apartment. They met me 50/50. If it weren’t for them, I would have been really messed up.  I have been spending a good amount of time doing volunteer work with the Islamic Community.  I help feed the disadvantaged breakfast on Sundays and dinner on Wednesdays, and I am hoping to start going into the prison soon with John Prince and OpenDoors in order to offer some words of encouragement to men behind bars. For me, each day on the right path is another day of sobriety, God consciousness, family, and community.

What are your short and long term goals at this point?

Business wise, I want to be completely self sufficient with my internet business.  Personally, I want to be able to be in my daughter’s life 24/7 without DCYF.  I only get weekends now, but I would like full custody.  I have done everything that RI DCYF has asked: taken drug tests, gotten a job, established a stable home.  I passed all their tests with flying colors, but I still don’t have custody.  On November 13, I have a court date where I hope to be able to achieve that goal.  I am just looking for justice, what is fair and best for my daughter.

Do you have a criminal record? Did you face any discrimination because of this? 

I completed my probation and parole by staying out of trouble, staying grounded, and being committed to my community.  Since then, my record hasn’t been much of an issue.

Do you have any advice for folks that are struggling to find jobs or establish a stable home right now?

I would say a lot of prayer, persistence, and staying connected with your community and OpenDoors. 

 

Interview by Annelise Grimm, Inside/OUT

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