Amongst the places PEERS Staff can be seen doing outreach or facilitating a group or training are hospitals, churches, schools, festivals, our own conference room, and the Santa Rita Jail. Recently a team of PEERS employees (Vilma, Sarah and Genesis) attended the Re-Entry Expo at Santa Rita Jail. The Re-Entry Expo brought information about local resources to people who likely will be returning to the community within a year.
“It was heavy being there,” admitted both Sarah and Genesis. Each thought their experience was beneficial to those they saw inside and therefore deeply rewarding. “Most people thought we were just focused on addiction recovery,” said Sarah. Once the people attending the expo learned more about PEERS as a potential resource and that we offer trainings and mental health support groups, most were interested in taking our materials. The Expo was held in the gym with many other organizations ranging from universities and shelters to other local non-profits that specialize in re-entry.
“I saw some of my old students in there,” said Genesis, who has been working with youth in the East Bay for several years. “I met a guy who was 19 who was on his way to serving 20 years,” she recalls.
Other organizers of the PEERS Outreach at Santa Rita recall their hearts going out to the inmates that needed to be in such a situation for several years at a time. The barriers facing returning citizens formidable, which is part of why PEERS offers tools and peer support for building structure “Yeah, it was a heavy experience, but it was cool. I would be up for doing a workshop in even heavier places,” said Genesis.