SARASOTA, Fla. (March 26, 2020) – The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) Good Neighbor Awards recognize REALTORS® who make extraordinary commitments to improving the quality of life in their communities. Following this same blueprint, RASM has established our own Humanitarian Award to be bestowed quarterly. RASM’s goal is to recognize the REALTORS® who are doing great things in our community. We want to show our members and the two-county area that REALTORS® make up a large part of our community’s success.
The RASM Community Outreach Committee has proudly recognized Monica Waterman, REALTOR® with Allison James Estates & Homes, as the “Humanitarian of the Quarter” recipient for the First Quarter of 2020.
Monica Waterman has lived and worked in the Sarasota area for nearly 27 years, both in developer sales and general residential sales. She is passionate about giving back to her community, and she consistently shares 10 percent of her real estate income with local charities, which she believes helps her clients have a special connection to the community. One local charity, in particular, is very near and dear to her heart: Project 180.
Project 180 is a reentry program for formerly incarcerated citizens who are non-violent offenders. Over 30,000 Florida prisoners are released annually and reenter our communities. Many wish to become law-abiding citizens and have the best intention of living a conventional life yet have very few job skills, lack formal education, and experience discrimination in housing and job markets because of their felony records.
Waterman is very involved with Project 180, having just finished a 2-year term on their board of directors.
“As a board member, I could see first-hand how someone’s life could be turned around for the better with just a little assistance. We all read the statistics, but when you physically see it with your own eyes, it has a whole different effect. These individuals have no tools to integrate into society,” said Waterman.
“Have you ever looked at a lease application? One of the first questions is ‘Have you ever been convicted of a felony?’, and the moment they answer truthfully, that’s it – the application is thrown in the trash. They can’t find a decent place to live or get a job. If they own a vehicle but have outstanding tickets that they can’t afford to pay, it prevents them from reactivating their driver’s license. The deck is stacked against them.”
As a result, these former inmates become homeless, unemployed, and impoverished. They are unable to make it in the conventional world. Upwards to 70 percent will re-offend within 90 days out of necessity alone, and within five years, another 76 percent are rearrested for a new crime. This contributes to victimization and puts a drain on community resources.
“What will happen is a person is actually in a situation where they have very little choice but to re-offend. It’s a matter of survival,” added Waterman. “It creates a cycle of desperate need, depression, and rejection. It is so hard to get on the right side of our society once you’ve been on the wrong side.”
Project 180 seeks to break this cycle by providing workforce education, housing, transportation, and financial assistance. They also have classes for inmates, an annual reentry lecture series for the general public, information and referrals for felons seeking housing, programs, employment, and a comprehensive, whole-life Residential Program for men in recovery. Project 180 seeks to build community, not prisons.
The charity also offers educational lecture series for the public called “Strong Voices / Strong Subjects,” that explores the impact of prisoner reentry into the community and through education helps to reform the “not in my back yard” mentality that often labels former inmates.
One of their most successful programs, the CEO Workforce Education Program, brings participating CEOs, hiring managers, and workforce agency specialists into the prisons to teach soon-to-be-released inmates how to find, apply for, interview for, and retain a position in each CEO’s industry.
“The CEO program provides a soon-to-be-released inmate with hope,” said Waterman. “They can receive decent employment in a positive environment, without being reminded of what they’ve done. They receive motivation and want to change their life around. We’ve all made mistakes. Who wants to be constantly reminded of those mistakes for the rest of their lives?”
In addition to her work in the community with Project 180, Monica Waterman enjoys donating her time and money to other local charities. Charities that are important to her include Vintage Paws, a resort for senior, ailing dogs who have been abandoned, and also Mote Marine Aquarium. Through her “Heart of the Home” program, she donates 10 percent of her income as a Realtor® to the charity of her client’s choice.
“My customers can pick their own charity, or I will. It provides a great opportunity to connect the customer with their new home, give back, and involve them in their community in the most positive way.”
To learn more about the many worthy programs at Project 180, visit www.project180reentry.org.