Get Organized

Find people who can help you organize your affairs and help you come up with a workable plan to find your way around a sometimes very confusing system.

This sounds like the most boring step of the whole reentry process, doesn’t it? Let’s face it, most everybody just wants to get going, right away. Stopping now, simply to get “organized” seems like an unnecessary waste of time. But it isn’t. In fact, every hour you spend now getting your records in order, getting the IDs you need, and dealing with your paperwork, will save you ten hours later on. And, the faster and better you get organized now, the more doors will start to open for you. This particular step may feel boring and tedious, but it’s vital. You can do this! And the really nice thing is that, if you get help and stick with it, you’ll start building momentum and get it done.

When you ask for help from a community organization, ask if case management services are available. These people can help you find other resources and help you figure out who does what in the community.

It’s important to not have high expectations (of any one place), but you can get help from a multitude of places. There’s help out there, but it takes a lot of footwork and planning and pro-activeness. (person on parole)

Most of us need help in getting organized. Many people on parole tell us that it’s hard to ask for help. Please don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask for any help you need. It’s impossible to list every resource in Chicago, but we’ve tried to include some of the more well-known and well-established places. You may need to do a little research on your own:

  • Ask your parole officer and/or a community re-entry specialist if s/he knows of specific places to get help. (See chapter 5 for information about the DOC community re-entry program.)
  • If you’re on parole and assigned to TASC (see below), let them know the type of services you need. TASC case managers know about resources in their community.
  • Call 3-1-1, and be connected to a database of health and social service resources available to you through the Dept. of Family Services.
  • If you go to a community organization, ask if they know about other places in the community where you might find help.

Your parole officer will give you a referral to bring to a TASC office. On your first visit, you’ll complete an intake, make an appointment with a case manager for an assessment, and will be assigned to random monitoring.

Your TASC assessment will take about an hour. During this appointment, your case manager will explain what to expect, why you were referred to TASC, and ask questions to see how TASC can help you succeed while on parole. Your case manager will discuss a plan for treatment and help you get the required services. You’ll meet with your case manager regularly to review progress and see whether any changes or additional referrals are needed. Generally, TASC provides case management services for up to a year but this depends on a person’s progress and needs.

TASC assessments, referrals, and case management sessions are provided at no cost to you. Substance abuse and mental health treatment costs vary depending on the type of treatment but TASC may issue vouchers to cover the cost if funding is available.

One person who works in
a re-entry program recommends that you make a list of the help you need, such as finding housing, a food bank, clothing for job interviews, glasses, parenting classes, etc. Bring this list with you whenever you visit an agency and use it to find out whether and how an agency can help you. Sometimes if you don’t ask for a particular type of help, an agency may not think to offer it, even if they can provide it.

Get Organized Checklist

  • Connected with a caseworker, counselor, or mentor to help you get organized and develop your action plan?
  • Organized your educational, vocational, medical, and financial records so you can show them when needed?
  • Received (or at least applied for) your photo ID, birth certificate, Social Security card, SNAP/LINK, health cards, etc.?
  • Figured out your transportation options, given where you’re currently living?
  • Set up a personal email account and contact phone number so that others can reach you?
  • Developed a workable action plan for the next month so that you don’t get overwhelmed, lose momentum, or become depressed?
  • Are you pretty well organized? If so, then it’s time to Get Help.