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Taking a leap off the street, into a job hunt

DOZENS OF Baltimoreans have contacted The Sun during the past six weeks toexpress a desire to end their roles in one of the city's most serious problems- the drug trade that supplies thousands of city and suburban residents withheroin and cocaine, ruins families and neighborhoods, and fuels the violencethat keeps Baltimore high on the homicide charts.

Addicts called for treatment, and those who sell drugs called for a newdirection - specifically, the full-time job they believe will keep them fromreturning to the streets. So far, nearly 100 men and women have asked forhelp.

Those still using heroin and cocaine were referred to Baltimore SubstanceAbuse Systems, the quasi-governmental agency responsible for providingtreatment for the uninsured and underinsured, or to a treatment center thatoffered its services. Several of those seeking employment have been referredto two nonprofit agencies that help connect men and women with criminalrecords to employers willing to hire them - STRIVE Baltimore and GoodwillIndustries of the Chesapeake. Some were referred to the Mayor's Office ofEmployment Development. A few others enrolled in a culinary training programoffered at no cost by nonprofit Moveable Feast, and some were referreddirectly to businesses that contacted The Sun to express willingness to hireex-offenders.

Each day, more men and women, either formerly or presently immersed in thedrug culture, call here for help in finding full-time, legitimate work. Theyare unemployed, underemployed or still engaged in the sale of cocaine, heroinand marijuana. Almost all say they have been turned down for low-paying,mainstream jobs because of their criminal records.

Brief profiles of some of these men and women follow. In a few instances,active or recently retired drug dealers asked that their full names not bepublished but made available to prospective employers. Companies orindividuals interested in a job application from any of these people, meetingthem face to face and helping them get out of the city's destructive drugculture, should contact me at 410-332-6166 or by e-mail atdan.rodricks@baltsun.com.

Joe Davis

Twenty-three years old, a graduate of Baltimore's Southern High School andthe Maryland prisons, Davis says he used to sell drugs but now seeks a job tosupport his wife and 5-year-old daughter. Davis last saw a prison cell in2003. He has experience installing rebar and would like to find a constructionjob again.

Thomas Willis

At 43, Willis finds himself on home detention and says he is determined notto repeat the crimes that landed him in prison too many times, the last hitchfor six years - armed robbery and possession with intent to distribute heroin.Lost for many years before that in the city's drug culture and estranged fromhis family, Willis says he is now back in the fold - thanks to the dying wishof a younger brother, Howard, who from a hospice bed in Towson asked hismother and two sisters last year to "go help Tommy." They did. Willis lives inhis mother's house in Northeast Baltimore. Says a sister, Tonya Carroll:"Tommy is my mother's only living son now. ... His whole thinking pattern iscompletely different from where it was six years ago." Willis reported to theSTRIVE Baltimore program Tuesday. He has experience as a plumber and ingeneral maintenance.

Brenda Brown

Saying she's clean from heroin for four years, Brown, 45, recently moved toNortheast Baltimore and is looking for a job where she has experience - infood services.

Raymond Austin

Less than a month from his last visit to jail - 30 days for possession ofmarijuana - Austin is living in East Baltimore and hunting for a job inconstruction. For the past few years, he has had odd jobs but nothing steady.He's also done some street hustling, but Austin, 31, says he'd rather get outof the game and find a full-time job on a construction site.

Alex

Still involved in drug sales, this 33-year-old West Baltimore man was lastincarcerated in 2000. He says he fears arrest or violence from the drug trade,but has not had any luck finding a mainstream job. He's willing to work inconstruction or landscaping.

Lenny Green

A former user and seller of heroin, Green, 42, says he has been clean fromthe drug for two years and no longer sells it. "I've been incarcerated half ofmy life, and I want to do right. I want to show my mother that I can do right.I never got to show my father; he left here [died] when I was stillincarcerated. I just want to get back to working, and being productive." Greenlives in West Baltimore with his wife, a state employee. He once had a jobmaintaining boiler systems in schools. He's willing to clean floors, work as acustodian or take a job in a warehouse.

Lonnie Hextall

Hextall, 45, managed for years to hold a wide variety of jobs while feedinga heroin habit. Now in his third year of recovery, he has experience as adelivery driver, package handler, bartender and as assistant manager of amattress distribution warehouse. Hextall resides in Baltimore County. He has acar but says he has no money to get it fixed. "I am ready for a real job," hesays.

Dwayne Scofield

In recovery from a heroin addiction for more than five years now, Scofieldis 34 and lives with his wife in Northwest Baltimore. His last job was atemporary position with the Baltimore Department of Public Works. He hasworked in a warehouse and as a custodian, washed dishes in a restaurant andprepared meals at Burger King. He would be happy with a custodial orrestaurant job again. "I spent too much time in jail," he says. "You come homeand you try to rehabilitate yourself, but they hold what you did in the pastagainst you. Going back to the street is tempting - sooner or later, you'regoing to drift back to what you know, aren't you? - but I don't want to dothat. I just need to be employed."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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