The right foot forwardPublished 10:43pm Saturday, September 15, 2012
Denise Miller works in outpatient services with the Western Tidewater Community Services Board, keeping citizens on probation and parole headed down a better path.
For many, transitioning from prison to civilian life doesn’t always go smoothly. Issues Miller deals with on a daily basis include mental ill health, addiction recovery, trauma, homelessness, unemployment and illiteracy.
“The drug and alcohol use is a smaller part (of the problem),” Miller said. “What happens is that they resort to the drug use to medicate … to escape.”
Another issue Miller deals with is apathy — hostility sometimes — toward clients by others in the community.
Holding pink and blue balloons, WTCSB clients, family members, friends and supporters walked through Suffolk on Saturday to raise awareness.
They set out from the board’s Saratoga Street offices about 9:30 a.m., arriving at Constant’s Wharf Park and Marina, where a celebration included live music, lunch and stalls representing several community groups, shortly after 10 a.m.
“There are so many stories,” Miller said. “Once that light comes on, there’s no stopping them. Once they get the encouragement and the support, it’s a wonderful thing. It’s a good feeling.”
One walker was Johnny Spice of Smithfield. Spice said he was a retired entertainer — “I was very famous at one time, back in the day” — who has been going to WTCSB for 18 years.
“I go to classes (and) meetings and stuff,” he said. “It’s volunteering … to help others out. I like giving to the community.”
Lives are rebuilt from the board’s offices at the southern end of Saratoga Street and its other locations, Miller says. Clients are taught to read and write and attain their GED diploma. Some learn the English language. Resumes are developed.
The board also offers emergency psychiatric and crisis management services, housing support, counseling and anger management, substance abuse groups and parent skills development, among other things.
“A lot of people that come to me on probation and parole, they have to abide by conditions, and as part of that they come and see me,” Miller said.
“A lot of people don’t even know that these services are in the community, and they go without and continue to be beaten and battered. We do recover with the help and support.”