Thursday, February 1, 2007
From orlandosentinel.com: For five months, members of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer's crime-fighting panel have been searching for ways to reduce violence.
On Wednesday, one solution became crystal clear. Delgardo Royal, a 45-year-old Orlando man released Monday from a Florida Panhandle prison, told the Mayor's SAFE Orlando Task Force about coming home with no money, no job and the temptation to return to crime to survive.
"I'm at the crossroads right now," he said. "I'm not going back to prison. I'll die on the streets instead of going back to prison. I know what it's like being out on the streets. I just need someone to be near the phone to catch me if I fall."
His safety net was a community activist and former probation officer he met four years ago. Royal called Mercedes Bigelow late Monday from Orlando's bus station. She picked him up, took him to a neighbor's home and then brought him to meetings of the task force Tuesday and Wednesday because she figured who better to describe the needs of those released back into the community from prison.
Royal's experience during the past few days led to the kind of solution the task force is proposing: A one-stop resource center to help ex-convicts get drivers licenses, jobs, medical care, mental-health counseling and other services so they don't return to crime.
When Bigelow brought Royal to a subcommittee meeting Tuesday, his story reduced participants to tears. Members Brandy Hand and Sarah Kelly went out and bought him clothes and shoes with their own money. They also contacted City Commissioner Robert Stuart, who runs the Christian Service Center, where Royal's other needs were assessed.
After Wednesday's meeting of the full task force, several board members -- pastors, businessmen and the president of the Metropolitan Orlando Urban League -- offered to help find Royal housing and a job. One pastor talked to him about setting up an apartment house for released inmates. Other panel members were busy on cell phones trying to line up job interviews with the city, landscaping and flooring companies.
"We are the intervention team," said Joshua Kirven, a psychologist, community liaison with the 9th Judicial Circuit's Public Defender's Office and task-force volunteer. "We've been talking about this for six months, and we finally have come full circle. Now, we've intervened on an offender's behalf."
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]