First things first. Some things go a whole lot better when they’re done in the right order. For example, when you learn to ride a motorcycle you’re taught that you need to start out by being N.I.C.E. Each letter stands for a step in a four-step process to take when you start up your motorcycle. “N” comes first and stands for neutral – because you don’t want to accidently start up in gear and take off too quickly. “I” comes next and stands for ignition – because you want to make sure you put the key in and turned it. “C” comes next and stands for choke – because you want to make sure that the engine will get plenty of gas when you first start out. Only then do we come to “E”, which is starting up the engine itself so that you can go. Here’s the point to doing it N.I.C.E: change the order or skip a step and you’ll either lurch and crash, constantly stall out, or never even get started. For us, the parallel to starting up your new life on the outside couldn’t be clearer. So be nice to yourself and follow a reentry process (Get Hope, Home, Organized, Help, Going) that works.
So, with hope and a plan, it’s time to “get home.” and find a place to “settle,” at least for a while. Wandering homeless bouncing from couch to couch will absorb all your energy and attention and block you from getting on with the rest of what you need to do. Once you settle in, you can begin to look for other basics, like food and clothing. Being settled allows you to focus your efforts. And, at this stage, focus is good. Part of getting home involves connecting immediately with support groups who can help you stay in the positive structured mindset that you can have in prison, before the crazy, unstructured street mindset clicks back in. Lots of ex-offenders tell us that it only takes about 48 hours for that to happen, so act fast.
We need to think about what “home” even means at this point. Your definition of “home” may have to change a number of times in your first year out. For some of us, immediately moving back in with our partner, spouse, children or parents can be good. However, for many of us, crashing with friends or family may not be the best plan. Think about it: It’s often the pace where we still have a lot of unresolved conflict, filled with people you hurt badly (or who led you into trouble in the first place), or where your very presence might threaten their lease. In those cases, and many more, calling sober living facilities, temporary shelters, or halfway houses “home for now” may be a whole lot healthier in the short term. One step at a time.