Harbor House Director Marcy Orosco tackles three of the largest contributors to recidivism: lack of housing, unemployment and chemical dependency.
“When you walk in the doors of our program, we’ll test you for alcohol and drugs,” said Orosco.
“If you’re willing to work, we’re here to help people, but they must be willing to do the work. I’ll put my hand out, but they have to grab it,” she said in a telephone interview.
Harbor House, is a large housing and chemical dependency program, located in San Francisco. It is a branch of the Salvation Army.
“I’ve been working at Harbor House for 25 years and the director for two years,” Orosco said. “We’re a large housing and chemical dependency program.”
Orosco regularly visits local jails and prisons around California to provide information regarding housing, unemployment and chemical dependency to the prisoners.
These services are also utilized by single parents and veterans, virtually, anyone in need. The Salvation Army Harbor House Transitional programs motto is, “Doing the most good.”
Harbor House is a non-governmental agency that provides a safe environment for families with up to three children. Its transitional residency program typically lasts between six to eight months and ends when permanent housing. State-licensed childcare is provided on-site, where city psychologists come to work with the kids. A family stays as long as the children’s needs are being met.
Orosco travels around the community providing information to potential employers about the formerly incarcerated. “They made a mistake and need our support.” Orosco said.
A SECOND CHANCE
“I go to speak to corporations so employers will get over their fears and understand the importance of working with formerly incarcerated people that deserve a second chance.”
She explained that potential employers are afraid to hire ex-cons, but once she lets them know what her residents at Harbor House went through, they want to hire them.
As a non-profit, they are always open for donations and for landlords to give apartments. The staff has worked with the San Francisco Rotary Club and with internet giant Craigslist.com..
“Everybody that’s in recovery here has had an addiction at one time,” she stated. “Our program provides a sober environment, but if you’re still using drugs, you won’t be coming here.”
However if someone does relapse in their recovery, they can reapply after five to six months sobriety and they have to go to detox.
“Help is not over, but they have to leave Harbor House because we have a zero tolerance policy.”
Orosco attends the Vietnam Veterans Group of San Quentin once a month to provide its members with the latest information regarding services available to veterans.
She said she is concerned over the spike in younger veterans with post-traumatic stress disorders, chemical dependency, and homelessness in the last couple of months.
“I love my job, because I’m giving hope to all kinds of people everyday,” said Orosco. “When I meet judges and district attorneys, and I get a person from being sent to state prison and back with their children, it’s beneficial for everyone.”
Orosco suggests that potential clients contact her around three months prior to release.
San Quentin prisoners may contact the California Reentry Program’s Allyson West to contact Harbor House.
Harbor House is located at 407 Ninth St., San Francisco, CA 94103, (415) 503-3022.
— Michael R. Harris and JulianGlenn Padgett contributed to this story.