Former Inmate Finds His Place in Paying it Forward

When Matthew Fairfield was released from prison in 2017, he was fortunate that his brother had arranged a place for him to stay and a job lined up. Instead of returning to managing properties and selling homes as he had pre-incarceration, Matthew’s brother thought his talents would be better served as a freight broker. After much research on the ins and outs of the job, Matthew launched his new career. To his surprise, he was quite good at it, making a nice salary by the end of the first year. That’s when he had his aha moment. If he could do it, others could, too.

“There are a lot of great, smart guys in prison that have had few opportunities in life,” he says. Matthew, a former E4 Specialist in the U.S. Army, who taught GED prep classes and led physical fitness exercise sessions for fellow inmates, founded the not-for-profit Faircosa Foundation to continue helping educate others such as himself. So what does this have to do with the Cuyahoga Land Bank? Read on.

Faircosa – a hybrid of his parents’ last names – provides career-training opportunities to other offenders through a two-phase process.  Phase I begins pre-release in local prisons, training select inmates in the transportation industry, specifically freight brokerage and dispatching. Inmates accepted into Phase II of the program live rent-free in a house upon release while receiving a full year of training and other support.  “One of the biggest obstacles to employment and training for many of these men is transportation,” says Matthew. “Through partnerships and assistance, we are able to provide training without the worry of paying for transport, rent, utilities or groceries. By the time participants leave the house, they are skilled, employed and have a little money in their pockets to give them the best chance of success.”

With Ohio Department of Corrections approval to set up training classes at the Grafton Correctional Institute, Faircosa was off and running. But then came COVID-19. Enter the Cuyahoga Land Bank.

No longer able to carry out in-person training in prison, Matthew and his team switched gears and redesigned the program from freight industry training to real estate restoration.  With help from a few investors, Faircosa purchased a home from the Cuyahoga Land Bank. The group has nearly completed renovation on the single-family home on East 175 Street in Cleveland, with plans to reinvest profits in other properties to fund Faircosa’s mission. Newly released trainees and veterans help with renovations, learning valuable plumbing, drywall and electrical skills.

“Although the pandemic set us back, it has allowed us to expand our training opportunities,” says Matthew. The group plans to resume and expand its training post-pandemic into other transportation industry fields, including CDL and diesel mechanics. “There are a lot of people Faircosa can help,” he says. “I feel like I can use my experience to make a difference helping others get on the right path in life and succeed.”

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