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York City woman wants to help give '2nd chance' to men leaving prison

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch
Norma Johnson walks the halls of Devers Elementary School where she is a hall monitor and security guard Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020. She is trying to open House of 2nd Chances, a halfway house for men recently released from prison. She is hosting a fundraiser for the effort, a Mother/Daughter Tea Party, Saturday, Feb 29, at Union Lutheran Church at 408 W. Market St. The event will feature beverages and snack foods. Bill Kalina photo

Former inmates released from prison face a host of barriers to reintegrating into society, from finding a job to managing drug and alcohol addiction.

Norma Johnson hopes to help this population by opening a series of residential homes in York City for men who have recently been released from jail or prison and need a supportive environment as they adjust to life after incarceration.

"We need time to be able to get ourselves together to relearn the skills which were embedded in us and we lost along the way," she said.

Johnson, a security guard and hall monitor at Devers Elementary School in the York City School District, also works in a girls home in York City.

She's been sober for 19 years.

As a recovering drug and alcohol addict, she said she's grateful for the opportunities she's been given to reach her goals and live the life of her dreams. Now she wants to help others achieve the same.

Johnson has been raising money to start the House of 2nd Chances, an organization that would run the homes.

Johnson and her supporters are hosting a fundraiser from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday at Union Lutheran Church, 408 W. Market St. in York City, to raise money toward the purchase of the organization's first house in York City.

The event, to be held at the rear of the church, is a Mother/Daughter Tea Party. There will be food and beverages, giveaways, contests and activities.

Tickets are $15 each or two for $25. About half of available spots have already been reserved, Johnson said, but tickets will be available at the door. 

Johnson said she's in talks with a few York City property owners who are open to doing a private sale of their houses.

Norma Johnson hugs her grandson, Zyaire Goines, a Devers Elementary School fifth-grader, at the school where she is a hall monitor and security guard Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020. She is trying to open House of 2nd Chances, a halfway house for men recently released from prison. She is hosting a fundraiser for the effort, a Mother/Daughter Tea Party, Saturday, Feb 29, at Union Lutheran Church at 408 W. Market St. The event will feature beverages and snack foods. Bill Kalina photo

The plan would be for the first house to have rooms for five men. The houses would be staffed, and the organization would provide job training, counseling and other support for residents.

"We have programs," she said. "We’re not just packing them in and taking their money."

Potential residents would have to be screened to ensure they'd be a good fit for the home, Johnson said, adding that she'd like to build relationships at area correctional facilities so she can meet with inmates preparing for release and evaluate their candidacy for placement with the House of 2nd Chances.

The York City School District and several local businesses have been great supporters of Johnson's efforts to get the first house up and running, she said.

For more information or to donate toward the purchase of the first house, contact Johnson by email at bagwellhouseofsecondchances@gmail.com or by visiting the website at houseof2ndchances.com.

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