Firm opens doors to future for ex-convicts 30-year-old agency shows the way to jobs


WASHINGTON -- The mirror reflects a slender, bespectacled man in a blue pin-striped suit.

But Clarence Wilson, 42, is not a high-powered Washington professional. He's an ex-convict, seeking help in landing a steady job.

"I'm applying for everything - hotels, restaurants," Wilson said. "I trust in God, and I believe that very soon I will be working and get my own place."

Wilson is one of thousands of former offenders who have gone in the last 30 years to Efforts From Ex-convicts Inc. for help with crafting a resume, filling out job applications and finding work.

Founded in 1967 by a group of former offenders, the nonprofit, privately funded organization has numerous success stories. Job counselor Gregory Ferrell estimates, for instance, that in February he met with 26 former offenders - a typical monthly figure - and was able to arrange work for six of them.

Wilson hopes to be among the lucky.

He was released from the D.C. Correctional Facility at Lorton, Va., on Jan. 28. He has served time on a number of charges, ranging from forgery to shoplifting, his D.C. Superior Court record shows.

He heard about Ferrell's work with former convicts while in Lorton and called him as his release date approached.

The day after his release, Wilson met with Ferrell for the first time. They prepared a resume for Wilson, a high school dropout whose goal is to work as an electrician.

Now Wilson waits, checking in with Ferrell a few times a week while trying to find a job on his own.

Ferrell said what his clients really need is job training, to open the door to more jobs. He said some also need to resolve problems with drugs and alcohol.

Wilson said he had a drug and alcohol problem, but has been sober since October 1993.

Ferrell said another employment obstacle is that many of his clients don't have a permanent home and are hard to track down when he finds them work.

Wilson is one of those people in transition. He has a roof over his head - he stays with his mother - but his name is not on any lease.

Ferrell estimates that 80 percent of the people who come to him seeking help are in similar circumstances. They're just one step away from being homeless.

Pub Date: 4/20/97

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