Adjusting to Meet New Challenges
— Evie Litwok
Founder and Executive Director, Witness to Mass Incarceration
In February 2020, I attended a training in Los Angeles about a safe housing network created for formerly incarcerated people. I went with Ali, my four-paw companion. I sat near Frantz, a man with a great smile, who was from New York. He told me later that he left the room to call his girlfriend and said, “there is this older white woman who keeps talking to me.” She said, “That’s Evie, talk to her!”
Formerly incarcerated people are in dire shape. Most were already impoverished, but now they are food insecure. I changed focus to get them food gift cards and part-time jobs. I wrote grants with Frantz, the activist I met, to get food cards, and I also received funding for census work and voter registration, which allowed me to hire dozens of formerly incarcerated people.
The experience of COVID-19 made it clear to me that employment was the most important issue for formerly incarcerated people. Since small business owners build wealth ten times faster than wage earners, I focused my energy in a new direction. I created the first-of-its-kind online directory of services and businesses run by formerly incarcerated people, a public resource that will grow and endure and help support them through this time and beyond.