YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – In continuing our conversations with organizations and individuals in the community that are making a difference and dealing in-depth with the issue of violence, Community Affairs Coordinator Dee Crawford is talking with Dionne Dowdy-Lacey, executive director of United Returning Citizens (URC).

Today, Lacey is talking about the action plan for the organization.

“When I go in there, I just talk with them and I’m like what do you really want to do? I really don’t want to hear the story about what happened because I’ve heard all the stories. You, yourself from this point on what do you want to do? What would make you happy? And we make a plan for that from step one.” Lacey said.

Getting an ID, a birth certificate or medical care are all first steps.

“Anything that is the first start to your next life or second chance. We do that in steps as baby steps. You know, we have weekly goals, daily goals, three-day goals, and monthly goals that help,” Lacey said.

Cashara Bradley entered the program and is now the housing director. She wanted to help women coming home from prison to get back into the world.

“For me, it was a challenge. If it wasn’t for family support, meeting up with Miss Dionne and just talking to her, giving her my vision of what I wanted to do. But the main thing was I couldn’t get housing for a good three years. I couldn’t get a good-paying job. I was working different jobs. And once my record came back, they had to let me go. So, it just pushed me forward to just continue to want to overcome these barriers, to show them that because that’s the discouragement. They tell you your record came back. You get that and you just feel like okay and then you go back to what you’re used to,” Bradley said.

That disappointment and recidivism soon become a pattern of behavior.

“Cashara has two roles. She does women empowerment and housing. She just had a vision board Saturday, and she has a weekly podcast that she has for the women to be able to talk. So, I thought that that was really great that she took the initiative to do some empowerment for the women because she’s been already in the place of that,” Lacey said. “So, who better to tell you about how or to support you from coming home and to empowering you from incarceration than someone who has experienced that.”

Female prisoners in our state institutions as nurture givers, face a lot of challenges that it’s just not a part of “rehabilitation” or community return to nurturing children, grandparents raising children.

“My challenge funding and just really cracking that barrier or that narrative of mental health returning citizens,” Lacey said.

“Mental health, That’s where it starts,” Bradley said.