Local Hero nominee Brian Francis returned to SA to help ex-offenders reintegrate into society
East London NGO answers 'call from God' to help ex-offenders start with a Clean Slate
Since registering his NPO, Clean Slate, in 2017 while living in the UK, East London-born Brian Francis has dedicated his time and efforts to helping others
Francis’s NPO works mainly with ex-offenders in an effort to help them reintegrate into society.
Francis, who relocated to SA permanently in 2019 with his wife and their three children, said Clean Slate had started from what he believed to be “a call from God to return to SA to help”.
He said the aim of the organisation was to rehabilitate and equip men and women to live crime-free lives and contribute 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.
Over the past two years, Francis has also taken up the plight of the homeless, advocating for a homeless shelter in the city.
In 2019, he spent a week living on the streets of East London as a homeless man in an effort to raise awareness.
“We discovered that many homeless people are ex-offenders who end up on the streets, often due to rejection from both society and family.”
He said Covid-19 had been incredibly tough for many people, leading to new projects for the NPO.
“The past year has been a year of uncertainty, but also a revelation as to why we as a society should not be reliant on the government to improve our livelihoods, especially those of the marginalised.
“The food parcel distribution was a good initiative to help support families.
“However we have now moved on from supplying food parcels without providing any skills development as we do not want to create an environment of dependency.
“In partnership with other organisations we provide skills development to empower individuals, especially our ex-offender client groups, so as not to become and remain dependent on handouts.
“These skills are also imperative in breaking the cycle of crime.”
In an effort to keep children in school, Clean Slate has also embarked on an education drive, supplying stationery and school shoes.
While Covid-19 has created many difficulties, Francis said it had also solidified the need for a halfway house or homeless shelter in the city.
“Through the provision of a temporary shelter, social development in East London saw the need for a permanent facility to house the homeless.
“We are now opening a halfway house where we will be able to house female ex-offenders who either have no forwarding address on their release or no stable living environment.”
He said there was a huge need for such a facility.
“One of our clients, Desiré Klein, is one example of how a stable living environment can help with reintegration.”
Klein said: “I had no place to go and no-one to turn to upon my release from prison.
“Brian found me a place to stay two days before my release. He didn't just drop me off, he kept in touch with me to make sure that I was all right. When I had a job interview he came to pick me up to take me to it.”
Francis said: “To date none of our ex-offender clients has relapsed or shown signs of giving up.
“I think knowing that they have people who are journeying with them is what keeps them going and it's what keeps me going,” said Francis.
“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.”
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