Coalition helps form better men

Published 10:51 pm Saturday, October 8, 2011

Car wash: Larry Mason rinses a car at the Better Man Coalition car wash on Carolina Road. He is one of about 50 men being assisted by the organization, where they work to gain job skills in exchange for assistance.

After 29 years in prison, Randall Daughtrey didn’t know where to turn when he got out recently.

But, like dozens of other formerly incarcerated and homeless men lately, he found help in the Better Man Coalition.

The formation of the coalition was largely the work of Bob Battaglia and Darrin Holmes, who have transformed properties Battaglia owns into shelters for men who need help getting back on their feet after being released from incarceration or living on the streets.

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But it’s turned into more than just giving them someplace to live — the Better Man Coalition has created businesses for the men to work at to earn their way in the program and back into society.

“Of course, nobody wants to hire somebody with no job skills,” Battaglia said. “We want our men to be self-supporting. We don’t want them to rely on handouts and welfare.”

Since the program began about six months ago, none of the 49 men involved has gone back to jail, Battaglia said. Three have gotten their own jobs, and two have obtained their own housing.

It all started when Battaglia was struggling to keep up with the responsibilities of being a landlord. Tenants would move out and leave his homes in shambles.

That’s when Holmes approached him with an idea to help. Men would live in the houses in exchange for helping to repair them, as well as food and clothing.

But none of the men were able to get outside jobs, Battaglia said. So he and Holmes started four businesses — a car wash, home repair, lawn care and a barber shop — for the men to work at. All services at the “businesses” are done for suggested donations so the organization can be eligible to be a 501(c)3 operation.

“We want to earn our way,” Battaglia said. “We ask for people to let us cut the grass.”

“They’re doing stuff for free, and they proudly do it,” Holmes said. “They’re willing to work.”

In the meantime, the men receive help with a number of services, including obtaining identification cards, setting up payment plans for child support, court fines or restitution, getting their GED and receiving many types of counseling, including parenting, alcohol or drug abuse, anger management, spiritual and more.

The main goal, Battaglia said, is to help the men gain back their self-respect, and then make them independently functioning.

“Nothing can be built without self-respect,” he said. “When somebody’s homeless, they don’t know where to take their first step, quite often. All they need is a chance.”

Daughtrey said he is grateful to the organization for its help.

“The program is a good program to help people get established,” he said. “I’m grateful they’ve given us an opportunity to better ourselves.”

The Better Man Coalition’s car wash is located at 244 Carolina Road. Suggested donations are $10 during the week and $15 on the weekend. The work includes an exterior wash and full interior detailing.

For more information, call 809-4500.