Nola.Com: Coming home - The First 72+ provides those freed from prison with lodging, hope
Parking in downtown New Orleans, Troy Rhodes was struck by the adjustment he now faced. The 50-year-old knew after 15 years in prison, he'd have to adapt to the outside, he said. The end of the journey from Angola to New Orleans made that much clear.
A federal judge had ordered Rhodes' release on May 31 and vacated his 2003 conviction and 149-year-sentence for armed robbery and attempted murder. His attorney drove him from Louisiana State Prison to New Orleans that Thursday, stopping first at her Central Business District office. She parked on the street.
"When I left, they had meters that you used to put the coins in and turn the little knob," said Rhodes, a neatly dressed man standing no taller than 5-foot-6, with a soft, measured voice. He swiveled his head, he said, looking for the waist-high, metal devices. "They had this machine in the middle of the block. … It was so different."
Getting out of prison meant he got to see the renovated Mercedes Benz Superdome in person after years of watching his New Orleans Saints play there on TV. It meant he could hold his wife's hand as they watched a movie without dreading a guard's signal that it was time for her to go. It meant he could taste the warm bell peppers his daughter stuffed with ground meat and shrimp.
Getting out also meant he needed a place to stay, a way to get around and opportunity to make some money. That's where the The First 72+ came in. Instead of 85 roommates in a prison dormitory, Rhodes now shares a room with one man, another formerly incarcerated person, at the organization's three-bedroom Perdido Street house.
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