The Power of Second Chances

The Power of Second Chances

The Power of Second Chances

By David Bass

Imagine stepping from a life of homelessness characterized by desperation and deprivation to a full, rich life in which you can contribute and build a future.

That was Jonathan’s story of transformation. As a graduate of CKS Packaging’s Second Chance Program, Jonathan went from homeless to employed in an entry-level job with a solid upward trajectory, allowing him to support his family,  save money for the future, and continue job training and education.

“What the Second Chance Program did was provide discipline, provide structure, and provide a lifeline,” Jonathan shared.

We love stories like these because they demonstrate so vividly this truth: When people are desperate, they need a sense of control over their lives. Without it, they are more likely to fall back into old bad habits and ways of doing things, such as substance abuse, crime, and homelessness.

A job with an upward trajectory is a key way to restore control and confidence in someone’s life.

 

Find out our full analysis of this
Second Chance Program.

A second chance

CKS Packaging is an Atlanta-based company that manufactures plastic containers for such clients as Coca-Cola, Chick-fil-A, and Kroger. The company created the Second Chance Program in 2016 to partner with service organizations in the Atlanta area with the sole purpose of recruiting struggling individuals who need a second chance at employment. 

Georgia Center for Opportunity recently published a research report on the impressive results from the Second Chance Program.

According to Lloyd Martin, the VP of manufacturing and leader of the Second Chance Program at CKS Packaging, many service providers in the community deal with surface issues without addressing the root cause of a person’s problem. In contrast, the Second Chance Program recognizes that a job, and the stability it provides, is a vital plank in rebuilding a foundation for a fruitful life.

Another graduate of the program, Greg, shared that Second Chance provided him a job after hundreds of companies had rejected him due to his criminal record. “When so many other people have said no to you, and then someone steps up and gives you a chance and has faith in you, it makes you want to give it 150% every day,” Greg says. He now plans to stay with the company until retirement.

CKS Packaging didn’t just provide a second chance for Greg. It provided a career.

Doing good while making a profit

CKS Packaging and the Second Chance Program show that it’s possible to do good business while doing good for the community. In fact, they go hand in hand.

According to CKS Packaging, the Second Chance Program has allowed the company to fill the gap in labor they were facing with long-term, dependable employees who otherwise may have not gotten a chance to turn their lives around. In the last five years, the company has hired 473 people through the program.

That impact extends beyond a company’s bottom line and individual lives to enrich an entire community.

 

To learn more about what Georgia Center for Opportunity is doing to help get Georgians back to work check out our Hiring Well, Doing Good initiative.

How to help kids and teens cope mentally during the COVID-19 quarantine

How to help kids and teens cope mentally during the COVID-19 quarantine

How to help kids and teens cope mentally during the COVID-19 quarantine

By Healthy Families Initiative

Our Healthy Families Initiative (HFI) team recently spoke with LPC Rebecca Gibbons via our weekly Healthy @ Home series. She shared with us the five symptoms to look for in children as they battle mental wellness during the unstable time of COVID-19, plus coping mechanisms to help young people struggling through the pandemic.

 

The 5 symptoms of mental struggle in children and adolescents

 

  1. Increased levels of frustration: “I cannot complete my homework, I do not have the codes, I can’t get a hold of my teacher, I don’t know how to open another window on the internet.”

 

  1. Increased boredom: “I’m frustrated that I can’t hang out with friends, go out to the movies or eat out. I’m tired of playing video games.”

 

  1. Increased helplessness: “Do I still matter?”

 

  1. Increased fear of the unknown: “Will the coronavirus ever go away? Will I get sick? Will my parents get sick?”

 

  1. Increased levels of instability: “When will this end? When will I get to back to school and play or hang out with my friends?”

 

One way to cope: Introducing Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) provides clients with new skills to manage painful emotions and decrease conflict in relationships. DBT specifically focuses on providing therapeutic skills in four key areas:

 

  1. Mindfulness: This focuses on improving a child or teen’s ability to accept and be present in the current moment. Be aware of our thoughts, feelings and senses: just focus on the present moment and the five senses of sight, smell, touch, hearing, and taste. For a practical example, “I Spy” is a great game where we use our five senses to keep us in the moment.

 

  1. Distress tolerance: This is geared toward increasing a child or teen’s tolerance of negative emotion, rather than trying to escape from it. Distress tolerance helps us get through tough situations without making things worse. It’s a way to practice how to relax and self-soothe. We can self-soothe by focusing on our five senses: Take deep breaths, observe your surroundings, and proceed mindfully.

 

  1. Emotion regulation: This covers strategies to manage and change intense emotions that are causing problems in a person’s life. Learning emotions to help express how we are feeling so we can control it. Here are five tips:
  • Describe the emotions you’re feeling.
  • Learn your triggers: What happened to make me feel mad or sad?
  • Learn how my body changed: Did I ball up a fist or did my body get hot?
  • Recognize how I reacted: Did I yell or say things I didn’t mean
  • What can I control: What am I in charge of and what can I change?

 

  1. Interpersonal effectiveness: This consists of techniques that allow a person to communicate with others in a way that is assertive, maintains self-respect, and strengthens relationships. This is our way of getting along with others, helping to build and improve relationships. To improve in this area, help teens and kids with the acronym GIVE:

 

G = Gentle – nice, respectful, calmly express your feelings, no judging, no attitude.

I = Interested – listen to what others say, show caring, do not interrupt others talking.

V = Validate – pay attention, show understanding through words or actions.

E = Easy manner (similar to gentle) truthful, talk nice, be silly, smile, no attitude.

 

We are driven by a belief – supported by experience and research- that people from all walks of life are more likely to flourish if they have an intact, healthy family and strong relationships. 

Visit our Healthy Families Initiative

Safeguarding the Economy is Paramount for Everyone’s Well-Being

Safeguarding the Economy is Paramount for Everyone’s Well-Being

Safeguarding the Economy is Paramount for Everyone’s Well-Being

By Erik Randolph

Recent numbers in confirmed COVID-19 cases have been nothing but discouraging, but is it logical to turn back? The resurgence in confirmed cases may tempt our political leadership to reimpose shelter-in-place mandates and business shutdowns, but at this stage it would be a mistake.

The Resurgence 

The recent data may be giving credence to those medical experts who have been arguing the lockdowns only delayed the inevitable. We must learn from the mistakes made and the impact the shutdowns have had on already heavily-impacted communities.

The official confirmed cases displayed on the Georgia Department of Health’s COVID-19 Daily Status Report webpage lags 14 days behind. Beyond that 14-day window at the time of this writing, the seven-day moving average of confirmed cases peaked at 763.1 on April 22 and began to decline. However, the average began rising again on May 10, and since May 25 the average has been steadily increasing. On June 24, the average reached nearly 2,000 cases, more than double its prior peak in April. There is good news on the Department’s webpage, reported deaths have been on a downward trajectory since the end of April. However, there is still much we do not know, including the unreported number of Georgians who successfully cleared the virus asymptomatically or otherwise.

Comparison to Other States

Compared to other states, Georgia does not look that bad. For example, deaths attributed to COVID-19 are far fewer in Georgia than in the Northeast. 

On the economic front, Georgia’s shelter-in-place orders were far less severe than in other states, such as Michigan, Massachusetts, and Washington State. Recent unemployment numbers suggest a possible negative correlation between the more harsh measures taken by states and employment. Georgia looks good with an unemployment rate better than 72 percent of all states. In some cases, Georgia’s unemployment rate is drastically better. Georgia’s rate is 36.4 percent of Michigan’s rate and less than half of Massachusetts’s rate.

 

 

The Economic Situation Overall is Not Good

When Congress first passed legislation addressing the pandemic, the discussion was shutting and locking down for 14 days that might extend to a month’s time. Recall the talk about a “V” shaped recession with the economy quickly rebounding? With the crisis dragging into its fourth month, this is no longer the discussion.

In my last blog, I argued that the official unemployment rates understate the seriousness of the unemployment problem. While Georgia’s rate measured 9.7 percent, I estimated that the real problem was closer to 25 percent . This was just one metric. There are plenty of other metrics indicating potential for some serious economic damage.

First, the economic impact is not shared equally. Some industries—such as restaurants, bars, tourism, live entertainment, and brick-and-mortar retail stores—have been hit especially hard. Many of these businesses are smaller, mom-and-pop operations with lesser capacity to withstand long periods of economic hardship. Workers, too, have been unevenly impacted, with lower income households bearing the brunt of the negative impact.

It’s also been bad financially. About 3,600 companies filed for bankruptcy in 2020 thus far, 26% higher than the first six months in 2019. Cash reserves is a major issue. A Federal Reserve Banks’ survey found that three in 10 small businesses were financially at risk or distressed at the beginning of the pandemic. 

We do not yet know the total loss in production due to our response to the coronavirus, but we know it will be bad. Production dropped 5 percent for the first quarter of 2020 nationally and 4.7 percent for Georgia. The loss for the second quarter will not be known until the end of the month when new numbers are released. Assuredly, the numbers will be worse.

Lost production is a great economic concern for all of us. It means lost societal wealth and hardships for many individuals and their families.

The Precarious Federal Fiscal Position

Since March, Congress has poured $3 trillion into the economy to help us sustain the hit. This is an enormous sum greater than the annual federal spending for social security benefits, Medicare, and all other mandatory spending programs. Additionally, the Federal Reserve is making trillions of dollars more available to help the public withstand the economic impact of the pandemic. 

In the meantime, U.S. total debt now exceeds $26 trillion and continues to grow. This is more than the total annual production of the United States when last measured. 

The temptation to reverse course in reopening the economy and looking to Congress and the Federal Reserve to bail us out with even more spending comes with enormous risks: high inflation, higher taxes, slower economic growth, and less wealth. Poorer communities and persons with lower income typically suffer more from these consequences.

These risks are based on fundamental principles in economics. We cannot spend money without someone, somewhere, at some time paying for it. With all the new money spent by Congress and created by the Federal Reserve, we will have one of two likely non-exclusive ways to pay for it: higher taxes in the future and/or inflation.

The much worse of the two is inflation. It is a hidden tax that everyone—rich and poor alike—must pay. It will erode wealth and opportunities for many.

An uptick in inflation will place the Federal Reserve in a precarious position. The standard tool is to increase interest rates. However, this can jeopardize any economic recovery from the pandemic. It will also exacerbate the federal budget deficit because of the extraordinarily high national debt, while potentially adding even more to the debt. In federal fiscal year 2019, the federal government spent $376 billion in interest payment to service the national debt—an amount equal to 28 percent of discretionary spending. This amount could easily double over the next few years.

The Best Course of Action

We cannot afford to wait for a vaccine. We must find our way to reopen the economy that is well managed and reduces risks to those most vulnerable to the virus.

Low-risk individuals, including almost all children, need to return to their routines as much as practically possible. This is the best way to extend opportunities for everyone and rebuild wealth so everyone can have fulfilling lives. 

Our fate lies not only with Congress but also with our governors. Reopening the economy is necessary to avoid greater economic damage. Everyone’s well-being depends on it.  

 

Erik Randolph is Director of Research at the Georgia Center for Opportunity. This article reflects his calculations, analysis and opinion and does not necessarily reflect that of the Georgia Center for Opportunity.

To learn more about what Georgia Center for Opportunity is doing to help get Georgians back to work check out our Hiring Well, Doing Good initiative. 

Highlighting Legislation Passed in the 2020 Georgia Legislative Session

Highlighting Legislation Passed in the 2020 Georgia Legislative Session

Highlighting Legislation Passed in the 2020 Georgia Legislative Session

By Buzz Brockway

 Ordinarily, the Georgia Legislature would have wrapped up its 40-day legislative session by the end of March. But 2020 is no ordinary year. As the pandemic spread, the Legislature suspended its session in mid-March with no return date announced. Eventually, lawmakers reconvened with 11 legislative days left to address a plethora of issues.

 

Looming large was the fiscal year 2021 budget, and as you can imagine, the budget outlook was much different in June than in March. State revenues plunged due to the shutdown and budget writers scrambled to decide the best path forward. After tapping into the state’s rainy-day fund, lawmakers passed a budget with 10 percent  cuts, approximately $2.2 billion smaller than originally proposed. No state department was spared, but some departments—like education—received smaller cuts than other departments. 

 

Apart from the budget, perhaps the issue that garnered the most attention was a hate crimes bill, HB 426. The murder of Ahmuad Arbery in Brunswick, GA, as well as the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police, created a political situation where ignoring this issue was impossible. Georgia previously had a hate crimes law that was declared unconstitutional by the State Supreme Court. HB 426, now signed into law by Governor Kemp, provides sentence enhancements after a person has been convicted of certain crimes motivated by bias against defined groups of people.

 

Two pieces of legislation we at the Georgia Center of Opportunity actively supported passed both houses and await the Governor’s signature. SB 288 allows a person convicted of certain non-violent misdemeanors, who have kept a clean record for a specific length of time, to seek to have those records restricted. This will allow these folks to have a better chance of employment. Another bill meant to assist people obtaining a job is HB 914. This bill will provide a temporary occupational license to spouses of members of the armed forces who move to Georgia. Georgia has a large number of military installations, so many people will benefit from this bill.

 

Other legislation of interest includes HB 888, which seeks to prevent “surprise billing.” A “surprise bill” occurs when an out-of-network physician treats a patient. These bills can become quite large. It is hoped this legislation will prevent this situation from occurring again. 

 

More progress was made in the fight against human trafficking as HB 823 and SB 435 passed.  HB 823 would prevent a truckdriver convicted of human trafficking of ever holding a commercial driver’s license again in Georgia. SB 435, known as the “Debbie Vance Act,” would allow a person convicted of trafficking to have their conviction vacated if they can prove they were a victim of human trafficking. 

 

Foster parents will be allowed to arrange for short-term babysitting under HB 912, which awaits the Governor’s signature. 

 

Government transparency and accountability got a boost with the passage of HB 1037. This bill would require audits on production companies seeking to take advantage of Georgia’s film tax credit. An audit earlier in the year revealed oversite problems in this very large tax credit. Price transparency for non-emergency medical services is the subject of SB 303, which was sent to the Governor’s desk. Empowering patients with pricing information can help lower costs for shopping of these non-emergency services. 

 

Despite the strange nature of the 2020 Legislative Session, many things were accomplished. The Georgia Center for Opportunity will continue to work hard to advance legislation to increase educational opportunity, knock down barriers to employment, and strengthen families. We look forward to continuing this effort in the next legislative session. 

 

 

 

We are driven by a belief – supported by experience and research- that people from all walks of life are more likely to flourish if they have an access to quality eduction, fulfilling employment, and live within healthy families. See what policy issues we’re working on to break down barriers and create pathways for all Georgians to flourish. 

Visit our Policy Solutions Initiative

Now more than ever, we need authentic compassion

Now more than ever, we need authentic compassion

Now more than ever, we need authentic compassion

By Katherine Greene

“Our human compassion binds us to one another—not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.” 

Nelson Mandela

We have a unique opportunity as human beings to show compassion to our neighbors. With recent events—from the coronavirus pandemic to instances of racial injustice—I have been on an emotional rollercoaster ride wondering where to find examples of authentic compassion.

 

Before the outbreak of COVID-19 and racial injustice movement, I was reminded of spring 2018 when I questioned the authenticity of compassion. My husband and I purchased a condo in a historic up-and-coming area of Atlanta called the West End. We thought it would be a great place to live, do life with others in the community, and enjoy the amenities close to downtown.

 

Unlike living in the suburbs, we were often overwhelmed by panhandlers and witnessed many homeless people finding shelter under the nearby bridge. That made us uncomfortable at times. It was disheartening and frustrating at the same time to see individuals having to live this way. I wondered how I could show more compassion to the people in these positions. 

 

Then, in early 2019, Super Bowl 53 was the highlight for Atlanta. What an exciting time for the city! The planning and preparation to have the city ready to receive an influx of tourists were high and intense. Beautification projects were taking place near and around the areas close to the Mercedes Benz Stadium—from repaired sidewalks, potholes, and streets to freshly painted street signs and buildings. Places that were once full of litter were suddenly cleaned up and areas that were once full of dirt and rocks were now covered with colorful flowers and pine straw. Even roadway projects were seemingly being advanced to make way for the high volumes of traffic and people for the big game.  

 

Street corners were cleared of panhandlers and nearby bridges in downtown Atlanta no longer housed the homeless. This seemed so drastic and I wondered how our city was caring for the homeless. Were any of the people under that bridge connected to resources that could eventually lead them to more permanent living situations. Did they even get the emotional, mental, and spiritual help needed to deal with their circumstances?

 

A couple of weeks after Super Bowl 53, I noticed how things started to slowly revert back to a familiar scene—an abundance of panhandlers standing on the street corner and litter spread throughout the streets. The most disheartening part of it all was this: people began to find shelter back under bridges. 

 

In my view, these were temporary solutions based on currency and not compassion. Now, I understand that when issues and problems arise, we need to lead with authentic compassion to bring about long-term solutions.

 

Organizations like Partners for HOME have the goal “to make homeliness rare, brief and nonrecurring.” This nonprofit is part of the Atlanta Continuum of Care, a collaboration of over 100 organizations working together to end homelessness. This collaboration produced the 2019 PIT Count Report (Point-in-time-Count) which collected data that had been, and will continue to be, helpful in assessing the needs of the homeless population in Atlanta. In the data collected it showed that Atlanta had seen a downward trend in homelessness in the areas of unsheltered, but a slight increase in the sheltered.

 

Although some of the numbers may have been trending downward, amid the coronavirus pandemic and instances of racial injustice, homelessness and poverty have started to rise like we’ve never seen before. Communities and leaders will have to step up their compassion for many neighbors especially for the underserved population.

 

A great example for us is like the compassionate act demonstrated by the gospel artist Lacrea, who responded during this coronavirus pandemic with Love Beyond Wall that installed portable handwashing stations around the Atlanta metro area for homeless and displaced people to clean their hands.

 

Poverty is the underlying cause of homelessness. It is complex and requires many solutions. That is why our work at Georgia Center for Opportunity (GCO) matters. Through the tireless efforts of our Hiring Well, Doing Good (HWDG) and Healthy Families Initiative (HFI) programs we work with the state legislature, community partners, and education and business leaders to provide real solutions to help the lives of individuals and families flourish in Georgia.

 

Perhaps if we can lead with compassion, we can understand that the people who find themselves on the street come from varying backgrounds—some have lost their jobs, affordable housing is scarce, maybe they suffer from addiction or mental illness. But human dignity is for everyone.

 

As my husband and I continue to make the West End area a great place to live and enjoy, we are excited about the work that many organizations like Partners for Home, Love Beyond the Wall, and GCO are doing by providing solutions to the underserved so that all people flourish and our communities thrive!  

 

We needed it during Super Bowl 53 and we need it now during Covid-19 and racial injustice.

 

We are driven by a belief – supported by experience and research- that people from all walks of life are more likely to flourish if they have an intact, healthy family and strong relationships. 

Visit our Healthy Families Initiative

Boundaries Define Us

Boundaries Define Us

 

 

Boundaries Define Us 

 

By Joyce Mayberry

 

 

 

“Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership. Knowing what I am to own and take responsibility for gives me freedom.”

Dr. Henry Cloud

Merriam Webster defines boundary in this way:

  • Something that indicates or fixes a limit or extent.
  • A line that marks the limits of an area, a dividing line.

 

When we talk about boundaries, we talk about restrictions and not necessarily freedom. There are several types of boundaries: mental, physical, and emotional. What type of boundaries do you have in your life? I think of obeying the law. Most recently, I think of COVID-19 and I think of social distancing. I just got married, so another boundary is being faithful to my spouse.

 

Let’s look at what’s going on today. The first thing that comes to my mind is the tragic death of George Floyd. In this case I would think that the four officers lost sight of their emotional and personal boundaries. What about the boundaries of COVID-19? Do you feel that the coronavirus is creating stress? You may need to create mental boundaries that help to give you freedom from listening to all the news. 

 

Are there areas in your life where things are in disarray? If there are, then you most likely do not have boundaries in that area. At the Georgia Center for Opportunity, in the impact area of Family Formation, we see regularly where people refuse to set clear boundaries. It’s important as we work to strengthen families and to see individuals flourish that we all seek to acknowledge when this does not happen. The Healthy Families Initiative has relationship education classes to help you to begin to experience that freedom that Dr. Henry Cloud talks about. Until you sign up for a class, here are some quick strategies that will help you to begin setting healthy boundaries:

 

  1. Know your value. Be clear about knowing who you are and where you stand.
  2. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Have your words speak for you!
  3. Trust yourself and have the courage to say no.

 

As Dr. Henry Cloud says, setting boundaries is key to knowing where you end and someone else begins, and it allows you take ownership. Individually, we each can begin to take responsibility for what happens in our state, community, and families.