“Redemption,” a story published in the Providence Journal and written by Pulitzer-finalist G. Wayne Miller, is a stunning profile of Rhode Island resident Mark Gonsalves, and his life-long struggles with addiction and abuse that led him to jump off the highest point of the Newport Bridge. Gonsalves survived the 220 foot-drop and was saved by three people who happened to be on Narragansett Bay for an early morning fishing trip. Miller chronicles the gripping story about Gonsalves’ progress and healing, and in doing so, highlights several LISC-funded programs available through Amos House, one of LISC Rhode Island’s key partners.
“The story about Mark is an important reminder to all of us of why we do what we do,” says Jeanne Cola, Executive Director of LISC Rhode Island. “Like with so many of our programs, we realize there are many people who feel the impact of the work being done by our partners. Redemption was a poignant reminder that, if not for LISC, the ending of the story might have turned out differently. We are happy to do our part.”
The program that helped Mark Gonsalves was funded by a large grant awarded to LISC from the Department of Labor (DOL) in July, 2017. LISC applied for and received $4.5 million from the DOL to support its Financial Opportunity Centers (FOCs) and to adapt Bridges to Career Opportunities (BCO) programming specifically for the re-entry population. LISC chose Providence as one of only seven cities out of its network of 80 FOCs nationwide to receive funding for this purpose.
With the additional DOL funding, Amos House was able to expand its job training and education programs and integrate them with their Financial Opportunity Center offerings, a successful program developed by LISC that helps participants with career and financial coaching, as well as help to access benefits. Amos House also implements LISC’s Bridges to Career Opportunities model, a comprehensive education and employment program that provides education contextualized to skills training, internships and employment. The additional funding from LISC allowed Amos House to modify this program to addresses the specific needs of individuals recently released from prison.
“Mark’s story is truly remarkable,” says Eileen Hayes, Executive Director at Amos House. “Since coming to Amos House, he has made great strides in realizing his goals. Mark has achieved sobriety, graduated from our culinary arts program, enrolled in college courses and is now employed at Amos House. The Department of Labor funding from LISC has been vitally important to our ability to provide these services.”
LISC launched its Financial Opportunity Center (FOC) model nationally in 2010 with a grant from the Social Innovation Fund (SIF), and invested in five sites in Rhode Island, including Amos House.
“We are grateful to Amos House for the phenomenal work that they do,” says Cola. “Their compassion and dedication means there is a dramatic impact on the people who participate in these programs. Mark Gonsalves is just one example of the great work that’s being done there.”
FOCs provide clients with three integrated services: employment coaching, financial education and coaching, and assistance accessing income supports. This bundling of services helps clients make important behavioral changes about money and improve their financial outlook, while preparing them to succeed in the workplace. The model has been successful in helping clients see real improvements in net income, net worth, and credit scores.
About LISC Rhode Island
With residents and partners, LISC Rhode Island forges resilient and inclusive communities of opportunity across America – great places to live, work, visit, do business and raise families. LISC has invested $373 million in neighborhoods across Rhode Island, helping to create more than 8,000 affordable homes and support the development of more than 2 million square feet of commercial, childcare, educational, and community space. We are committed to building strong neighborhoods and healthy communities where individuals, businesses and families can thrive.