Restoring Hope

Reentry Conference and Resource Fair

Celebrating its 10th anniversary with record registrations of more than 900, the Reentry Conference and Resource Fair took place on Friday, September 9, offering hope and opportunity to crime survivors, justice-involved youth and adults, and families with incarcerated loved ones.

“The way you restore hope is by inspiring hope,” said Julio Escobar, Reentry Conference organizer and leader of the Restorative Justice Ministry at the Archdiocese of San Francisco. “Our event theme is to empower leaders looking for a change. Yet, for us to be leaders, we need to first be followers. We need to be good listeners, to be humble, and to recognize the dignity of every person created in the image and likeness of God. This foundation enables us to evolve into great leaders.”

New Job Fair

New to the 2022 event was a robust job fair, providing attendees with a wide range of employment opportunities throughout the Bay Area.

Jasmine Alvarez of San Francisco’s Pretrial Diversion Project said that the job fair was super helpful. As she engages in therapy with clients, one of the biggest stressors for them is joblessness and being unhoused, and so adding the job fair at the Reentry Conference helps to meet her clients’ basic needs and improves their mental health.

“It is amazing to have all these employment resources handy to support my work with reentry clients as we engage in career exploration,” she said.

Michael Scott, a senior manager at Goodwill, said that he is dedicated to helping people who are looking for second chances. Goodwill has a reentry program with job preparation, job search and job training skills that help people to either rebuild their careers or start on a new career pathway to be successful in their communities and help their families to put food on the table.

More than 100 organizations were represented at the conference, offering their services to attendees, including the Success Center, which offers training and education resources for attendees.

“We offer jobs that are reentry friendly, said Loria Price, career center director at Success Center. “We break down the barriers for services including assessments, counseling, GED training, childcare, food, clothing and other support services.”

Conference attendee, Majeid Crawford, executive director of the New Community Leadership Foundation, has benefitted from the services of the Success Center. His organization supports Black-owned non-profits, businesses, and Black and other disenfranchised artists in marginalized communities.

“I participated in the Success Center’s year-long Leadership Program, and it definitely changed the trajectory of where I am trying to go as a leader and where I want to take my organization,” said Crawford. “From training on how to register with the California State Registry, to non-profit compliance protocols, the support offered from the Success Center changes people’s lives for the better.”

Prayer Reflection

The event began in prayer and reflection.

“Today, we remember those who have lost their lives to violence and for those offenders who are in prison,” said Fr. Frank Tinajero, of the Society of the Divine Word in Los Angeles. “May they recognize there is a better way to live….Despite the messiness of our lives, our Creator will use these situations to recreate and make anew….We come together as people created in God’s image and likeness….May His spirit move us and energize us….With great joy, we begin a new day and ask God to guide, inspire and walk with us in our journey, filling us with energy and insights.”

Father Tinajero closed with the Peace Prayer of St. Francis, the patron saint of San Francisco.

Attendee Feedback

“Collaboration!” “Networking!” “Serving those in most need!” “Changing the narrative!” These are the answers Julio Escobar received when asking attendees to shout out their reasons for attending the event.

The Reentry Conference and Resource Fair is unique by bringing together victims, offenders and the community. Sponsored by the Archdiocese of San Francisco’s Office of Human Life and Dignity and its Restorative Justice Ministry, the event took place at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption. The conference offers attendees educational and social service resources, victim services, faith-based reentry support and other preventative and healing resources from law enforcement, government agencies and non-profit institutions.

“Mediocrity is not an option…. we always have to do the best,” said Escobar. “We want to make it easier to secure the services and support that attendees need to be ethical leaders and compassionate citizens in serving the common good.”