By JOSHUA SOLOMON
Friday, December 07, 2018
GREENFIELD — People tend to know Larry Thomas as patient, as positive, as the guy who always will stop, say ‘Hi’ and ask how you’re doing.
At a hearing to see if he could secure an apartment, Thomas found himself furious.
“I had to go through this hearing,” Thomas said. “It was difficult. I had two people advocating for me from ServiceNet. My housing coordinator and my therapist. They both know me.”
Thomas had been staying at shelters and surfing friends’ couches, but things had started to turn the corner. He had housing at a halfway house that partners renters with social workers. He had begun to move from a member of The RECOVER Project to a trained recovery coach — a burgeoning profession in the recovery community — and even an employee of The RECOVER Project, where he has grown into a leader in that community.
At the time, he was just on the cusp of having a steady job, but without steady housing. Thomas wanted his own place, but he needed to go before this hearing with letters of recommendation. “It was almost like going to court,” Thomas said. “It was uncomfortable. I kind of got mad about it. The lady kept looking at my criminal record. I said, ‘Ma’am, can you look at the letters?’ This isn’t the 80s. It’s 2017.”
Thomas, like others in the community, especially those in recovery, struggles with finding housing when having a criminal record, albeit sometimes from decades ago. Oftentimes, that criminal record is related to a history with drugs. The criminal record is not necessarily related to violent crimes.
“I’m being judged and looked at again,” Thomas said. “All this stuff I already did time for. We have to do it all over again.”