ST PETERSBURG, Fla. - Robert Goodreau's first arrest was at age 18.
Then he was placed in handcuffs three more times.
“I'd give anything to go back and fix all the wrongs I've done,” he said. "My ex-wife and my son were homeless and I went and stole a whole bunch of food. When I reached the parking lot that's when they got me."
His criminal record has made it difficult for Goodreau, now 24, to find a job.
While behind bars, Goodreau met Julia Delmerico, a case worker for Pinellas RELINK, which helps recently-released offenders successfully transition back into society. The program, through a five-year, annual $375,000 grant from the state Office of Minority Health, was started in August 2016 but began recruiting clients in February.
“The moment they get out of jail is a perfect time to turn their life around for the better,” Delmerico said. “Majority of these clients are kind of hopeless or feel abandoned by society or their support system. Even that first face to face interview with a case manager is pretty eye opening to be able to explain to that client what services we can link them too.”
Along with job placement, the program provides a range of services from resume building to HIV testing.
The organization hopes to stem an unfortunate trend - one out of ever three released inmates in Florida will return to prison within three years.
Currently with 50 clients, the program is looking for more people to help like Goodreau, who is back on his feet and fighting to retain custody of his son.
“if you got the help take it," said Goodreau, who credits the program with his turnaround. "Don't make the mistake I made and be to prideful to ask for help or get help."
Those interested in the program can contact a case manager at 727-321-3854.
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