Kristi came to our legal advice clinic a couple of months ago. She was looking for help in clearing her criminal records. She has not been able to find a job or secure adequate permanent housing for several years now. These barriers have led her to a downward spiral and landed her at a local homeless shelter. Kristi’s criminal history is far from spotless. There is really not much we can do to help her clear it up, at least nothing that will make a noticeable difference in preventing the legal discrimination she faces every time she applies for a job or a place to live. Oh, and Kristi has three children. She wants to get back on her feet so she can be a mother to them again. Somehow, some way.
Kristi has moved from the emergency homeless shelter into a housing program that supports individuals over several months as they seek work, attend life skills classes, save money, and begin in many other ways to get their lives back on track. Kristi has also long suffered from mental health issues, yet never has seemed to get the assistance and treatment she really needs to stabilize and overcome. She is trying, but without the proper help the obstacles just keep stacking up.
Kristi may not be the most compelling, heart-melting story I share on here. However, she is likely one of the more common examples of the struggles people face. Far from innocent, yet seeking redemption, millions of folks with criminal records wake up everyday to the seemingly insurmountable barriers blocking their path up and out, forward and beyond. They desperately desire change, seeking a new and better life, yet the systems and structures and stigmas keep them locked up and pushed aside. Kristi made some mistakes. She readily admits that. But does she really deserve to be punished over and over and over again every day she wakes up feeling lesser than, unworthy, and ashamed? Does Kristi really not deserve a chance to redeem herself, to pull herself up, and to make something of her life with another shot at being a mother, a productive, self-sustaining citizen, and a good neighbor to all? Does she really not deserve a fair chance at life?
Why wouldn’t we want Kristi to succeed? I struggle to understand why, but our society sure seems hell-bent on her demise. And sooner than later it will send us all to our knees with her.
Mercy, most powerfully when we do not deserve You, come quickly. For Kristi, for me, for us.