SOUTH BEND — When Alicia Brown set out earlier this year to teach people with a criminal record skills to help them find employment, she didn’t know just how quickly her program would grow.
FANS, Fresh Attitudes for New Success, started its first class in March serving those on work release in the St. Joseph County Du-Comb Center. Now roughly seven months and 36 graduates later, the program is partnering with the Center for the Homeless to offer its first class that’s open to the community.
“I’m extremely happy,” Brown said. “I had hopes but I didn’t know how the community would react, and the community has been amazing.”
FANS classes meet once per week for five weeks. Participants learn how to become more confident, as well as how to market their job skills and address their criminal past while talking about the positive changes they’ve made.
Brown designed the class based on her own experience. The 36-year-old spent nearly four years in prison for prescription fraud. While incarcerated, she was given the book “Jails to Jobs: Seven Steps to Becoming Employed,” and took to heart the lessons she learned.
While FANS has had five rounds of classes in the DuComb Center, partnering with Center for the Homeless was always a goal, Brown said. The homeless center is often the next step for someone getting out of DuComb. FANS and Center for the Homeless had one class that was just center residents as a trial run. With the success of that first class, they are now ready to open it up to the community, said Rachel Weatherly, career and education specialist for the Center for the Homeless.
“We recognized that there’s a lot of people who aren’t homeless that still have these barriers,” Weatherly said. “We know there are a lot of people in the community who need resources.”