If Advancing Steps has its way, hope and success will go hand in hand. The intrepid nonprofit organization, founded by Walker Beverly, is a viable resource center in the Valley with support services that assist formerly incarcerated individuals in reintegrating back into the community.

 “I love working with clients,” Beverly says of his role. “What a lot of Americans do not understand is more than 95 percent of the people who are incarcerated will be released one day. And it’s best for them to use services such as Advancing Steps or they can just go home and not struggle on their own. That’s usually where recidivism comes in.”

 To that end, Advancing Steps focuses on educational and vocational training to upskill its clients. One of the main goals is to help clients establish a good path into a job or career that offers a decent living wage. Working with several collaborating organizations, Advancing Steps offers a diverse spectrum of services.

These include but are not limited to: partnerships with housing organizations; case management; Workforce Development; addiction referrals; life skill classes; financial literacy; transportation assistance; education and vocational training; and family reunification and legal services.

 As a recent grantee of the IE Black Equity Initiative/IE Black Equity Fund through Inland Empire Community Foundation, Advancing Steps is eager to expand its reach in the coming year. Beverly believes the organization’s clients will be greatly impacted as a result.

 “We filled out that grant to help with Workforce Development because one of the major factors in successful reentry is getting employment,” he says. “Our organization offers the formerly incarcerated population wonderful tools to get employment. Through our Workforce Development program, they can get a resume, learn how to interview, and also be shown how to job search and get back into society where they can work. 

 “A lot of times this population believes that since they have a criminal record in their background that they’re not able to get employment and that’s so far from the truth,” he adds.

 Advancing Steps officially became a non-profit organization in November 2019. The organization mirrors the winning model of The Safe Housing Network and also adds another significant component—education and vocational training.

 Beverly says he launched the organization out of a great need in the region.

 “I know the need for reentry services for the formerly incarcerated was lacking here in the desert, and especially west of Coachella Valley,” he says. “The second reason I formed the organization is that I’m formerly incarcerated myself and that’s where my passion comes from. I’ve learned to turn my life around and do a total 180. I believe I can help others to get there also.”

 Originally from Los Angeles, Beverly moved to the Valley about 18 years ago. “I loved it, stayed, and haven’t left since,” he says, noting that he was incarcerated more than 24 years ago.

 Moving into 2024, Beverly points out several key areas that will require great attention and, perhaps, support from the community.

 “We’ll be seeking funding for transitional housing,” he says. “One of the things we’re running into is that a lot of homeless clients have criminal records, and they weren’t able to get jobs or housing because of the barriers they face. Transitional housing would help them to get a job and get settled.”

 He also notes the importance of reacclimating to society.

 “Some of our clients we’re working with have been gone for 10, 20, 30, and even 40 years,” Beverly adds. “Housing is one of the most major issues for someone to be able to move forward in their life.”

 The nonprofit will also be hiring another case manager so Beverly can tend to other business, such as grant writing and working with donors.

 “But what I appreciate most about this is the clients,” he says. “They come out of prison with absolutely nothing, and I love watching them grow and be able to save money and then, three or four or five months down the road, they’re able to go get their own apartment. Just watching their success is just the greatest part of it for me.” 

Learn more about Advancing Steps at advancingsteps.org.

This story originally appeared in the Desert Sun January 2024. 

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