Tucson-Based Goodwill Partners with Tribal Communities to Support Justice-Involved Individuals

April is Second Chance Month, and we are highlighting the work that is being done by Goodwill organizations in local communities to help people get job training and earn employment to thrive after justice involvement.

In Tucson, the team at Goodwill Industries of Southern Arizona has been operating programs for individuals who have been involved with the justice system since 2012. Since that time, more than 500 individuals reentering the community have received services to address their many and varied needs.

One common thread the Goodwill team noticed throughout those years of service is that meaningful relationships with key community partners are essential to delivering these much-needed services. In a region as diverse as Southern Arizona, it has always been important that Goodwill’s relationships and partnerships reflect that diversity. One such relationship the Goodwill values and continues to grow is that with its local tribal communities. Arizona is home 21 federally recognized tribes, and the Goodwill has served many members of those communities through its reentry programs over the past nine years.

In that time, the Goodwill team has worked to grow their knowledge and understanding of the various dynamics that makes serving people from tribal communities unique. Early on, as the team established its reentry programs, the staff intentionally built rapport and trust with the individuals enrolled in the programs. Gradually, the Goodwill team began to understand and develop a cultural sensitivity for some of the unique challenges faced by tribal members on their paths to reentering their communities after incarceration.

While building rapport and trust with each participant is essential to serving them well, the Goodwill also saw the importance of developing stronger relationships with the tribal communities themselves. In opening dialogue and sharing ideas and resources with tribal programs and representatives who are doing similar work, the Goodwill team developed a deeper cultural understanding to better meet the needs of tribal members who come to Goodwill for support.

For example, the Goodwill team has developed relationships with programs serving the Pascua Yaqui Tribe — a tribe of approximately 19,000 members that has a major influence on the spirit of Southern Arizona’s community and culture. Recently, representatives from Goodwill Industries of Southern Arizona and the Sewa U’usim Community Partnership Circles of Care with the Pascua Yaqui Tribe came together amid the pandemic to discuss the needs of their shared community during this challenging time.

Some issues Goodwill of Southern Arizona and Sewa U’usim have collaborated on have included assisting young people with high school and GED training, revitalizing underserved community spaces through the introduction of programs and services, sharing best practices in the areas of food and clothing pantries, and leveraging shared relationships to help provide a wider range of accessible career pathways for those who are ready.

“Having go-to people and go-to partners who you know will operate openly and who share your mission is so important,” says Josephine Martinez, care specialist with Sewa U’usim Community Partnership Circles of Care. “It is vital to have partners who know what it is like for the people we serve, share a vision for how we can better our communities and then have the work ethic to get the job done.”

It is the belief of the Goodwill team in Southern Arizona that these sort of relationships are the lifeblood of effective and impactful programming. They are proud to have such diverse and committed “go-to” partners in the area.

The Goodwill Reentry Opportunities to Work (GROW) program is made possible with a grant award of $4.5 million, from the U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration. The GROW program serves 580 justice-involved participants offered by five subgrantees from across the Goodwill network. GROW programs provide a multitude of occupational trainings and credentialing pathways towards achieving economic mobility.