Helping People Find Their Way to Self Sufficiency

At a time when most 17-year-olds are getting ready to graduate high school and venture into a great big new world of independence, Mark was facing life without parole. His world would be a cell. He would be told when to eat, sleep, exercise. For 34 years.
Released in 2020, Mark knew if he was going to successfully transition back into the community – a world that had changed so much – he was going to need help. When COVID-related travel restrictions were finally lifted, Mark made his way from Michigan to San Diego and Second Chance. At a pivotal time in his life, Mark found safety and support at one of San Diego Second Chance’s sober living homes. He also received assistance with transportation, food and hygiene products.

“Second Chance allowed me to become stable; to advance my life in a more structured way – more than what would have been possible if I was on my own.” With the stability of a place to live and a supportive house manager, he found work right away as the local economy came back to life. He saved his money, counted his blessings daily, and in six months, moved into his own apartment.

Operating on the ground floor and undeterred by the complex problems formerly incarcerated citizens face, Second Chance’s mission and singular focus is to disrupt the cycles of incarceration and poverty by helping people find their way to self-sufficiency.

Founded in 1993, Second Chance provides critical workforce readiness training and wraparound services, proven to reduce recidivism and economically empower youth and adults who have been or are at-risk of becoming involved with the justice system. A criminal record significantly reduces an individual’s educational achievement and lifetime earnings, creating obstacles that make self-sufficiency nearly impossible. Those obstacles can be overcome with job training opportunities, learning life skills, eliminating educational barriers and addressing ancillary issues such as mental and physical health, housing and substance use. Second Chance programs are designed to overcome the unique challenges each person faces – from housing and job training to mental health and sobriety.

Most individuals enrolled in Second Chance programming come from the surrounding communities of Southeast San Diego, Encanto, City Heights and Barrio Logan, where unemployment is 57% higher than the city’s average, according to the most recent U.S Census figures. In an effort to deter youth from becoming justice involved, Second Chance transformed an unused and unsightly plot of land to a thriving Youth Garden, where participants take direct responsibility for the growth, harvest and sale of fresh produce. Their eight-week program combines classroom and experiential learning to increase participant awareness of urban agriculture and food justice, while helping them progress towards successful high school graduation and/or employment.

For 10 years in a row, the program has been selected as a San Diego Gas & Electric’s Environmental Champion, a grant program focused on improving the local environment and supporting climate action. Over the last 18 months, the impact of COVID-19 has been felt deeply by the community Second Chance serves. The pandemic highlighted the lack of resources individuals need to successfully re-enter society. Second Chance is that critical bridge for individuals seeking help. The organization is grateful for its many community supporters and partners, working together to help thousands of San Diegans find their way to self-sufficiency.