Sometimes all someone needs is a second chance to get back on track, just ask Kenny.
Kenny was at Angola for 18 years, and when he was released in 2017, he just needed a roof over his head to help him rebuild his life.
“I didn’t have much help when I got out,” he said. “Through the Odyssey House, I got into Volunteers of America. It was a perfect situation for me because after 18 years, it was a new world. It provides a structured environment, but I have all the freedoms I needed to get a job and repair the relationships with family and friends.”
His road to a new life started after he found a job washing dishes. Living at Volunteers of America’s single room occupancy (SRO) residence on Canal St., he was able to make some money and, more importantly, repair his relationships with his brother and children.
“The community at the Canal SRO is close-knit,” Kenny said. “A lot of the staff and residents are just great people. It helped renew my hope in my personal humanity.”
That renewed faith led him to his current role as a Peer Support Specialist at Positive Living Center, which works with Section 8 Criminal Court’s Reentry Program.
“I get to work with at-risk kids, who are on the path that I was on with the drugs and other things, and I share my experience to help prevent it from happening to them,” he said. “They need people who can show others the way.”
Kenny said he knows firsthand how difficult it is to get back on your feet, but he’s turned his troubles into something positive.
“It’s something that my background is an asset instead of a liability,” he said. “Sometimes it’s frustrating because these kids don’t want to listen. Eight out of 10 aren’t going to listen. They’ll have to do it the hard way, but if I can reach a few of them, I’ll be happy with that.”
Kenny said he can see when one of his clients is on the right path because “you can see the fire light up in their eyes.” One young man in particular has inspired Kenny recently. He’s a young father “who wants to be a good dad, and you can tell that he is going to make it.”
Kenny, who was sentenced to a natural life term before new laws allowed for his early release, recently welcomed a grandchild into his life, thanks to his repaired family relationships.
The 58-year-old Shreveport native said his path to a new life had a simple beginning, thanks to Volunteers of America.
“Just do the next right thing. That’s all I’ve done. It’s amazing where that will lead you. If you go in a convenience store and they give too much change, just give it back. It all comes back to you. Just do the right thing in whatever you do.”