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Updates give hope for life off the street

Jails and PrisonsRestaurant and Catering IndustryPension and WelfareBaltimore Orioles

TWO MONTHS and two days have passed since the first profiles of men andwomen caught up in Baltimore's drug life -- and eager to get out of it --appeared in this space. The contact count is up around 150 now, and today'scolumn is an update on where the many hours of conversations with present andformer dealers and addicts (or their mothers and grandmothers) have led.

About a third of them were referred to the few but effective job-trainingand job-placement programs that serve recovering addicts, ex-offenders andwomen moving from welfare to work. Some enrolled in those programs. Some madeappointments to get started but failed to show up (and you all know who youare, too). Some entered drug treatment; some have been frustrated by the waitfor it.

Some applied for jobs with employers who hire ex-offenders. At least sevenhave landed jobs, and though they're just starting to work again --- and it'stoo early to declare success in any one instance -- the modest progress isworth noting, if only to give others in the hunt some hope.

Having spent too much time in Maryland prisons, his last stint for forgingprescriptions for pain killers, Theodore Anderson was the first man to take usup on an offer of help. Forty-four years old, the father of four children,Anderson was tired of two things -- incarceration and the frustrating job hunttypically a consequence of it. Since his release from prison in April 2004,Anderson had not been able to find steady employment, and he blamed hiscriminal past.

On June 12, he expressed his desire in The Sun: "I got to find some way tohelp with my family."

A day later, George Litz, president of the company that supplied all thebrick for, among other places, the classy stadiums where the Orioles andRavens play, reported interest in considering Anderson for a job at L&L SupplyCorp. The company has since put him to work loading bricks for delivery.

"We are a 50-year-old Baltimore company that my dad founded in 1955,"George Litz wrote in an e-mail. "If he was still living I believe he wouldwant to do the right thing -- that is, give a man another chance to turn hislife around."

And all the better if you pluck that man out of Baltimore's dreary druglife.

Michael Wimbush, 41, went to Goodwill Industries of the Chesapeake'sex-offender program and, after getting some counseling from Chip Reis, the jobplacement coordinator there, landed a packing job at a company in OwingsMills.

Wimbush had been addicted to cocaine and alcohol, and he spent 2 1/2 yearsin prison for theft. After his release in 2002, he was able to find onlytemporary or part-time jobs.

Referred last month to Reis, Wimbush received leads on Baltimore-areacompanies willing to hire adults with criminal records, and he applied to one.

"The man who hired me said he appreciated that I was honest about my pastwhen I came in and told him everything," Wimbush says. He starts his new jobTuesday at $8.25 an hour, with an opportunity to advance to $10 an hour after60 days. "It makes you feel good," he says, "like you're worth something."

Robert Armstrong, who had a long history of the use and sales of cocaine,contacted The Sun last month, just after his release from prison, havingserved almost half of a 12-year sentence for drug distribution. With the helpof the Goodwill program, Armstrong, trained in the operation of a forklift,found a job at a home renovator's supply depot.

Lenny Green, 42, a former user and seller of heroin, said this when I spoketo him last month: "I've been incarcerated half of my life, and I want to doright. ... I just want to get back to working, and being productive." A womanwho does the hiring for a bulk-mail company read Green's profile on July 28and offered him a job. Green also received job counseling through Goodwill.

Darryl Logan, the longtime heroin addict who at times sold the drug tomaintain his habit, entered the treatment program at Johns Hopkins BayviewMedical Center about a week after his story appeared in this space. Uponcompletion of his treatment, Logan returned home and hooked up with aclassmate from his days as a Friends School student in the 1970s; the friendhelped him land a job with a commercial real estate company.

Kevin Gambrill, profiled in this space July 31, had been seeking arestaurant job like the one he had had for 14 years before he went to prisonfor a crime directly related to his heroin habit. Gambrill, 39, returned toWest Baltimore, his wife and four children a year ago. He received treatmentfor his addiction but had a hard time finding full-time work.

Tipped to a job possibility at Bo Brooks Restaurant in Canton by anemployee who had contacted The Sun, Gambrill is now working there as a linecook. He took a second job at a pit-beef place.

Dwayne Scofield, 34, a recovering heroin addict profiled in this space July28, had said: "I spent too much time in jail. ... Going back to the street istempting -- sooner or later, you're going to drift back to what you know,aren't you? -- but I don't want to do that. I just need to be employed." Hehas since found two dishwasher jobs -- at a Baltimore college and arestaurant. He starts next week.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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