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NPO offers a clean slate to ex-offenders

Founder of NPO Clean Slate Brian Francis, centre, offers food to homeless people during a recent lockdown outreach project in East London.
REACHING OUT: Founder of NPO Clean Slate Brian Francis, centre, offers food to homeless people during a recent lockdown outreach project in East London.

Aiming to rehabilitate, empower and equip those who have been excluded from society, Clean Slate founder Brian Francis is determined to ensure his organisation stays true to its mission.

Clean Slate is an NPO that works mainly with ex-offenders in an effort to help them fit back into the community.

“We registered Clean Slate in 2017 while living in the UK.

“Clean Slate started from what I believe to be a call from God for us to return to South Africa to help primarily, yet not exclusively, ex-offenders reintegrate into society,” said Francis, who moved back to SA permanently with his wife and their three children in 2019.

“Ex-offenders are our main ‘client group’.

“Our aim is to rehabilitate, equip and release transformed men and woman back into society, living crime-free lives and contributing positively to society.”

Through counselling, job and skills development, Clean Slate works to ensure ex-offenders have a place in society and do not relapse.

“Clean Slate takes a holistic approach to the needs of the people we assist and to achieve this, we formed partnerships with other organisations, churches, local businesses and volunteers.

“Through our partnerships, we are also able to offer drug rehabilitation and work readiness programmes, as well as distribute food and clothes to the homeless,” Francis explained.

Over the past year, Francis has also taken up the plight of the homeless in the city.

From advocating for a shelter for the homeless to helping provide food parcels during lockdown, Francis has used his passion for those often rejected by society.

In 2019, he spent a week living on the streets of East London as a homeless man in an effort to raise awareness.

“The connection between the homeless and ex-offenders always comes up in conversations.

“We discovered that many homeless people are ex-offenders who end up on the streets, often due to rejection from both society and family,” Francis explained.

“East London as a city has neither a halfway house nor a shelter for the homeless, and the reason we took up the cause of the shelter is to ensure that we have a facility in our city where we can assist the homeless on their journey.

“As an organisation, we believe in partnerships. Our fight for the shelter is not for a Clean Slate-run facility, but for a place where we can get other organisations involved in helping eradicate  homelessness and empowering our clients and, in doing so, breaking the cycle of crime.”

Francis said to date, the organisation had helped ten people, including ex-offenders and the homeless to enter the job market.

“Due to the stigma attached to ex-offenders, it is quite challenging assisting people with job prospects.

“Nevertheless, there are employers who are willing to give people a second chance, overlooking their past, and this is a great motivation for us,” said Francis.

“Not everyone is easy to work with, so we do have our moments where extra efforts are needed and it can become very challenging and discouraging at times. But we get back up and keep on keeping on.”

Noluthando Skenjana, an ex-offender who has been assisted by Francis, said Clean Slate had helped her realise that there was life after prison.

“I was coming from prison and my family rejected me.

“I didn’t know what to do, but Brian [Francis] told me that this is not the end,” said Skenjana, who now runs her own business selling vegetables, beadwork and bricks.

“They helped me find my own place to live and to make a business. Before Clean Slate I was so hopeless.”

Francis said the organisation was now looking for premises to work from and hoped to establish a halfway home or transitional accommodation for ex-offenders who had nowhere to call home once they were released from prison.

He said seeing the small successes of those Clean Slate had helped was what kept him going.

“Our vision is that of changing the narrative of ex-offenders, the homeless and their families and that is what it’s all about.

“Waking up every day knowing that you have the opportunity to make a difference in someone else’s life and seeing their lives change for the better is very rewarding,” Francis said.


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