Providence Office of Economic Opportunity Creates Innovative Partnerships to Increase Community Impact

PROVIDENCE, RI – Mayor Jorge O. Elorza today joined elected officials, Director of
Economic Opportunity Brian Hull, representatives from Workforce Solutions of
Providence/Cranston (WSPC), OpenDoors Executive Director Sol Rodriquez, Providence
Housing Authority Executive Director Paul J. Tavares, and Providence Public Safety
officials to highlight the RHODES to Employment Program managed by OpenDoors. The
program, made possible through a $500,000 U.S Department of Labor grant, provides
pre-release work readiness services, career counseling, employment education, and
case management to successfully reintegrate incarcerated individuals.

«Now, more than ever, Providence needs to lead the way in providing the most
marginalized members of our community pathways to good paying jobs and ultimately
self-sufficiency,» said Mayor Elorza «I’m proud of the work being done by the Office
Of Economic Opportunity, OpenDoors and project partners to provide ex-offenders
specialized support for a fresh start and a better life.»

The Providence/Cranston Workforce Development Board, the leading agency for the
project, in partnership with the City’s Office of Economic Opportunity, issued a
request for proposal for a Project Manager to oversee the program and coordinate the
operation of REP partners. OpenDoors, selected as the program manager, will
coordinate services among the program partners including Greater Rhode Island
Workforce Development Board (GRIWDB), the Rhode Island Department of Labor and
Training (RIDLT), and the Rhode Island Department of Corrections (RIDOC). As project
manager, OpenDoors will also be responsible for financial and data management.

A report from the RIDOC, which notes that in fiscal year 2016, it processed 3,472
releases, with 44% reporting their return to Providence or Pawtucket, and an
additional 18% reporting a return to Cranston, Warwick, and West Warwick. Research
has shown that when given support systems during incarceration and after release,
individuals are more likely to improve their own quality of life and skill sets.

Mayor Elorza has recently expanded efforts to address income inequality in
Providence and transform the City’s workforce development system by appointing Brian
Hull as Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity. In this role, Hull has begun
to reshape workforce development to better meet the needs of low-skilled, low-income
residents, including ex-offenders and others with barriers to employment.

«Our office’s mission is to expand opportunities for the City’s unemployed residents
to gain the skills and credentials needed to succeed in the 21st Century economy,»
said Director of Economic Opportunity Brian Hull. «We’re realizing this mission
through a strategic and comprehensive approach to delivering employment services,
skills training, and other forms of support targeting low-income persons and
economically distressed neighborhoods.»

The announcement follows recent criminal justice reform advocacy by Mayor Elorza
resulting in amendments to the Providence Housing Authority’s (PHA) admissions
policy for individuals with a criminal history. Mayor Elorza emphasized the
importance of affordable housing, skills training, and employment to ensure that
ex-offenders can reintegrate into society and achieve economic security and

In addition, the Office of Economic Opportunity is the key employment partner with
the PHA on their Jobs Plus Providence (JPP) initiative. JPP offers
employment-related and other support services, industry-driven training programs,
pre-apprenticeship and registered apprenticeships, and wrap-around supportive
services, designed to increase the rate of employment and annual earnings for
residents of Hartford Park and Manton Heights.

These efforts signal Mayor Elorza’s commitment to addressing income inequality in
the City of Providence and ensuring that those with criminal histories gain access
to the services and programs necessary for them to rebuild their lives.