From Being a Felon to Gaining a Future
Eric Bridges attributes part of getting back on his feet to his case manager Amy Feland
FARGO, ND — Eric Bridges was left homeless last year after getting out of prison.
To get his life together, he turned to resources in the metro including the United Way and the Lakes and Prairies Community Action Partnership.
Filling out a job application was different for Eric Bridges.
“Once they get that and see you have a felony, they don’t even call you back or they probably just throw your application away or whatever,” Bridges said. “See that’s the problem I was going through so I never got interviews or anything.”
Bridges has domestic assault and violating orders of protection on his record.
He would violate his parole if he did not get a job, which he says left him feeling stuck between a rock and a hard place.
“I was just kind of losing my self-esteem and losing myself because I didn’t know what else to do,” Bridges said.
That’s when he decided to get some help from Amy Feland.
She works closely with United Way and became Bridges’ case manager.
“I said ‘well I’m going to set aside time,” Feland said. “I have time this week. I’ll set aside three or four hours because maybe if people saw your face when they filled out the application and your demeanor, maybe that would make a difference.”
And it did. Bridges got a job at Pizza Hut and was also accepted into a welding course.
“She went the whole nine yards and is still here as of today,” Bridges said. “She’s a wonderful person, that’s all I can say and ‘thank you’ and God blessed me with her, bringing her in my life.”
“It’s part of my job, it’s just part of my job is to encourage these people and like I was saying, believe in them until they believe in themselves,” Feland said. “That’s truly just a passion of mine. I enjoy helping people and encouraging them. They call me their cheerleader.”
With Feland in his corner, Bridges’ life would continue to get better every day.
In April, he met his 19-month-old daughter Aria for the first time.
“She just right off the bat, huge smile and she just came to me and I just kind of teared up,” Bridges said.
Now that Bridges is in a good place, he encourages others to not be afraid to ask for help.
“Always have somebody in your corner, somebody positive that’s going to keep you level-headed,” Bridges said.
“The simple things people take for granted, he just needs a little extra help and eventually he can do it on his own,” Feland said. “He’s been doing a lot of his confidence. Just from the first day he walked into Lakes and Prairies, it’s blossomed.”
Bridges says anyone can change their life for the better.
“I know life is hard and if you want something better out of life, you’ve got to keep going. You’ve got to fight for it,” Bridges said. “Stop making excuses, keep going, keep pushing, things will fall into place.”
They just have to put in the work.
Feland’s job was created last year as part of a partnership between United Way, Lakes and Prairies and M State to help homeless people get back on their feet.