Reentry program director defends delayed stipend payments, promises change

Problem Solvers
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — During his 44 years, Binghampton native Roy Patton has been through a lot. He spent time in prison and admitted he was addicted to drugs and alcohol. But he’s managed to turn it around.

“Today I’ve been sober two years,” he said.

He lives at a sober facility in Midtown, where he pays $75 a week in rent.

To afford it, he was working odd jobs like painting until an opportunity came around last month.

“I went there with hopes to gain a trade,” he said.

He said another program, called HopeWorks, referred him to the Shelby County Office of Reentry for their new small engine repair program. The County promised to pay him and others like him $15 an hour to attend for 4.5 hours a day, four days a week, for nine months. At the end, they’d get a certificate, which he wanted to use to support himself by starting his own company.

But after about six weeks in the program, Patton said all but two students have dropped out because they haven’t been paid.

“I enjoy the class. I have no problem with the class. The problem is, it’s almost like they lied to us. We constantly telling them we got bills,” he said.

That’s why he called the WREG Problem Solvers and we got on the case. First we went to the Shelby County Office of Reentry in South Memphis, where an employee flatly said, “no comment.”

Instead he referred us to director Harold Collins.

We found Collins entering the State of the County speech in Collierville.

“The students didn’t get a stipend because it’s a nine-month program with a federal grant that pays by the quarter. So if they started on January 6, they wouldn’t get a payment until March 6,” he said.

Students said they felt mislead by that assertion. They expected payment on the same schedule as county employees.

Collins also said he was disappointed the program didn’t have a smoother roll-out.

“We’re working with them. We have to turn in hours, show the students were in class,” he said.

Then, Collins made this promise.

“We’re working with the grantors to see if we can get something to them as soon as possible,” he said.

We’ll stay on top of this to see when it happens.

There’s a ribbon cutting for the new program on Tuesday.

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