In January, Sebastian was released from prison after three years. As a condition of his parole, he stayed at a residential reentry center in Milwaukee that was run by Wisconsin Community Services. For Sebastian, this turned out to be a great place to begin the next phase of his life.
“I was given every opportunity while I was there to make sure I had everything I needed to be successful,” Sebastian says. At WCS, he worked with staff to get ready for his new life – from signing up for health insurance to setting personal goals and determining what career to pursue. A few weeks after he left the residential reentry center, he returned to WCS to apply for a job. He was a perfect fit for an open position and now works as the facilities maintenance supervisor, managing upkeep for all 19 WCS locations.
“It was very easy for me to transition out of the residential reentry center,” Sebastian says. “WCS offers some of the most functional ways to provide services for people who are often forgotten about.”
For more than 110 years, WCS has served individuals who have been involved, or at risk of becoming involved, in the justice system. With programs across southeastern Wisconsin, including Milwaukee, Jefferson, Waukesha and Kenosha counties, WCS serves more than 15,000 people each year with programs that create opportunities to overcome adversity. This includes services for justice-involved individuals as well as services for youth and adults with behavioral health, substance use or other life needs. “We provide services for individuals, who, by and large, would not get the services and support that they need, if not for the work that we do,” says Clarence Johnson, WCS president and CEO. “Our impact is significant, and the work we are doing is vitally important for the community.”
Most WCS programs receive government funding, but some do not, or only receive partial funding, such as the WCS Center for Driver’s License Recovery and Employability, which helps low-income people who’ve lost their license, often due to the inability to pay a fine; or NOVA House, a residential substance use recovery program set to open early next year. This work, and much more, depends on private donors. “It’s good to know that there are organizations like this that provide programs and services to people like me, who have not had all the resources,” Sebastian says. “And now I’m in the best job I’ve ever had, I’m in the best place I’ve ever been mentally and physically, and I’m happier than I’ve ever been. Honestly, I have to say that it’s because of WCS.”
What We Do:
• Wisconsin Community Services operates over 60 programs for underserved populations in southeastern Wisconsin, including those involved in the justice system and those with behavioral health needs. For the formerly incarcerated, WCS operates reentry and reintegration programs as well as employment training and workforce development.
• WCS also offers programs for people who have behavioral health needs, providing substance use recovery and treatment, peer support and mental health services.
Where Your Money Goes:
• Donations to WCS help to fund programs such as the driver’s license recovery, to meet the basic needs of people receiving services or to provide program enhancements.
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