Stories of Recovery: Isabella

After ten years of incarceration, Isabella should have been excited that her release from Bedford Hills Correctional Facility was imminent. Instead, she was increasingly nervous and scared. She was scheduled to be released the following week, but had nowhere to live after leaving the facility. Her future, which should have been filled with hope and potential, was looking increasingly bleak.

Bedford Hills contacted The Bridge’s Iyana House to see whether Isabella could move in on such short notice. Iyana House is a transitional housing program specifically designed to meet the needs of men and women with a serious mental illness who are being released from prison. For this reason, Iyana House was well-equipped to help Isabella adjust to life post-incarceration and manage her health. Program Director Carmen quickly set up an interview with Isabella and immediately saw that Iyana House would be a good fit for her. Isabella finally had a new place to call home.

Isabella_2.jpg

Once she moved in, Isabella was immediately connected with a case manager who referred her to treatment programs and helped her determine goals. She quickly made herself part of the community and impressed Carmen with her motivation and drive. Isabella took a special interest in the backyard space at Iyana House, which had long been neglected. She soon became a driving force in its transformation into a beautiful space for socializing and relaxing. “Isabella made it happen,” Carmen says. “She was so consistent in following up to make sure the garden was planted. Isabella put many hours of work into cleaning up the yard. And when volunteers came to design the garden, she developed her own relationship with them. She would come down and ask questions and get involved.”

This was by no means the first time Isabella had demonstrated her strength and determination. A poet from a young age, Isabella had kept journals full of poems, as well as her fledgling memoir, close to her always. She found writing to be therapeutic, a healthy way for her to process the emotions related to her difficult past. She explains, “Things I see, I’ll write about it. Things I hear, I’ll write about it. Things about me or my past or the abuse, I’ll write about it.” Yet when Isabella was transferred out of Riker’s Island Correctional Facility, her writings were confiscated. Five whole journals were gone. Although many people in Isabella's situation would have given up, she painstakingly rewrote everything she could remember. At Iyana House, Isabella has continued working on both her poems and her memoir. She even recently purchased a computer to help her with the writing process. “I was taking a money management course with The Bridge,” Isabella said. “It helped me save $100 each month so I could afford a computer. Next I’m saving up for a printer.” (Click here to read one of Isabella's poems).

Isabella has now been at Iyana House for two years and has made great progress. She graduated from The Bridge's chemical dependency treatment program in 2014 and has attended PROS, a day program for adults with mental illness, also at The Bridge, since then. She has been doing well with her parole requirements too. She has built a strong relationship with Dr. Black, Iyana House's dedicated parole officer, and has even been granted permission to visit her family in Connecticut.

Isabella has been doing so well that she'll soon be moving on to more independent housing. “Isabella and her caseworker are looking into housing in Connecticut, closer to her family, because moving there is part of her ultimate goal,” said Carmen. “She’s been doing so well, and we’re encouraging her and helping her transition to this next step.” But even as Isabella looks forward to gaining new independence, she remains grateful to The Bridge for the support she had received. “I love Iyana House. If I have questions, I’ll ask them. Or if I need to talk, they’re there for me. They’re like family to me.”