Early-released inmates seeking help from homeless shelters this holiday season
BATON ROUGE- While many people are spending this Christmas with family at home, some will be looking at homeless shelters for warm beds and hot meals.
St. Vincent de Paul has seen an increase in need as former convicts have no other place to go after being released from prison.
Back in November, nearly 2,000 inmates were released early from prison thanks to criminal justice reform. While those releases continue, many former inmates have no homes to return to. This holiday season, they're looking for a fresh start, and seeking help from places like St. Vincent de Paul.
Nickolos Marchiafava and Benjamin Wiley's lives completely changed in early December when they both got the news they'd be leaving prison early.
"Kinda scared really. It was spur of the moment when they called me," Marchiafava told WBRZ. "They called me out, they were like you're getting released. Do you have a ride? I was like no ma'am. They gave me a bus ticket the next morning and they sent me to Baton Rouge."
While Baton Rouge is his hometown, he had no home to return to. So he looked to St. Vincent de Paul.
"It was a big relief, these people are wonderful, they really have been," Marchifava said.
Benjamin Wiley, a Texas native, was in jail for seven years before his recent release.
"I'm human, I made a mistake. I've paid my dues to society," Wiley told WBRZ.
Even though he has family just a state away, he needs to stay close by in order to build a new life and rebuild a relationship with his son.
Michael Acaldo with St. Vincent de Paul says on any given month their shelters have about 10 men seeking shelter after being released from prison. But since the criminal justice reform law, those numbers have drastically risen.
"On any given night we could have as many as 62 men here and 26 on Plank Road," Acaldo said.
Acaldo says they've also seen an increase in meals served this year, and they're always looking for monetary donations to help meet the needs of so many who look to them for help.
"We've all made mistakes, we all have done something wrong," former inmate Wiley said. "You've got your right on how you want to view me or view convicted felons. Give us a chance, give us an opportunity."