Volunteers of America finding success in reintegrating Colorado felons

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DENVER — Oterian Scott has been in and out of jail, but he says a new program shows the experiences of the past don't have to define his future.

Scott said he's been in jail for things like drug possession, menacing with a deadly weapon and stealing a car. But last year, he was directed to the Volunteers of America Rapid Rehousing for Reentry program.

“I’m in a position to where I can go for my dreams,” Scott said. “It’s been about a year since I’ve been in jail.”

The program aims to help former prisoners find homes.

“To break the cycle of incarceration and homelessness and help people who have paid their dues to society,” said Brenton Hutson, Volunteers of America division director.

The VOA started the program in Colorado last fall, servicing cities up and down the Front Range. So far, they’ve helped about 110 households. Case by case, they will help pay for former prisoners’ security deposits or a couple months rent until the client has a steady job.

“The cost of this program for one time intervention is about a fifth per person of what it costs to keep someone incarcerated,” Hutson said.

Since the program began, Hutson says only three of their 110 clients have exited the program to incarceration — a 97% success rate.

“Me being a felon, it’s hard for me to get a job or to get housing but by VOA`s help it bypassed all of that,” Scott said. “It’s like starting over and they’re not looking at what you’ve done.”

Hutson says this is the only program of its kind in the country, as they partner with state and local agencies including the Department of Corrections, the Department of Labor Affairs and the Denver Department of Public Safety. They recently got approval to double the program, expanding services to 220 households.

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