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Episode 65: Nick Robbins and Returning Home NWA are helping to Repair Lives and Restore Families, one person at a time

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Transcript: IANWA - Returning Home with Nick Robbins

Duration: 37:17

It's time for another episode of I am Northwest Arkansas. The podcast covering the intersection of business, culture, entrepreneurship, and life in general here in the Ozarks. Whether you were considering a move to this area or trying to learn more about the place you call home, we've got something special for you. Here's our host, Randy Wilburn.

Randy Wilburn [0:42] Hey folks, and welcome to another episode of I am Northwest Arkansas. I'm sitting down today with Nick Robbins. Nick is the Executive Director of Returning Home Center here in Springdale. And, you know, it's interesting again, people come to me from all walks of life. People come to me from contacts that I know, and a good friend of mine connected me with Nick, a couple of weeks back, and Nick was interested in coming on the podcast to share a little bit about Returning Home. And so, without further ado, Nick, how are you doing today?

Nick Robbins [1:12] I'm doing good. First of all, thank you so much for having me- appreciate the opportunity to kind of share our passion with the community.

Randy Wilburn [1:18] Absolutely. So first, tell me about you. We always get into people's superhero origin story. Everybody has one. And you share just a little bit about your background, and your background is one of the reasons why you're actually here running this program, Returning Home. And so, I think it's incumbent upon people in Northwest Arkansas to know all the different options that are out there available to them, all the facilities, all the programs. Every time I get out there and meet somebody new, I'm amazed at why that this exists and that exists. And so just learning about returning home in the few minutes that we spent some time together, I think you know, this audience needs to learn a little bit more about that. But before we jump into that, I would love for you just to kind of share your origin story real quick.

Nick Robbins [2:05] Absolutely. To me, oftentimes, I have people come up and go, hey, why do you work with men and women coming from prison and jail? And to me, I just laugh because that's the only thing that makes sense. But until they know, you know, that background it doesn't make a lot of sense. I grew up in Iowa between Iowa and Illinois, bounced around a lot, but I was a very rebellious kid and did a lot of things I shouldn't be doing. And my best idea got me incarcerated for two armed robberies. So, I was 17 years old time at the time, and so I kind of got thrust into the criminal justice system and not really knowing how to navigate it and not being extremely mature at the time. I really just increased my lifestyle that I was living prior to being incarcerated, found that that's kind of what everybody does in that setting. And so you know, through some bumps in the road of still trying to live that life where I was the Lord of my life and just ram my head into the wall. It felt like for many years, I kind of at one point, while I was in prison, I'd already got kicked out of one prison and, and then the next prison had been under investigation and I had got myself some new charges for the crimes I committed while I was in and so, for the first time in my life, it was very clear that it wasn't the coach's fault, it wasn't my parents' fault, it wasn't the community's fault, it was my fault. I was the only one making decisions. I was the only one responsible for my life and so I needed to change for the outcome to change.

And so I started working on myself and ended up seven and a half years later. I got out of prison, and I knew the impact of the community coming in and just kind of pouring into me. I went through a faith-based program and accepted Christ, and you know, changed my why for everything that I do. And through that investment from the community, it gave me the hope that I never had in my life that I could be successful, to understand what I believe success is to be a positive part of people's lives, that is a success. And so, when I kind of understood because of what somebody did for me, I think I can do that for other people. I think I can come alongside somebody and at Returning Home, all we know is the worst thing somebody has ever done. And I sit in front of the class and the first group that comes in every Tuesday, I say, I know the worst thing you've ever done, and I love you and I'm so glad you're here and you mean so much to us. And we're going to invest in you while you're here. And we hope you're going to do the same. So, give them an opportunity and know that it's coming from a place that I understood what it looked like when somebody gave me that same opportunity.

Randy Wilburn [4:44] Yeah, it's funny you say that. I know that Bryan Stevenson from the Equal Justice Initiative that's one of the things that he says is that you know, you are better than the worst thing that you've ever done. And sometimes that's the hardest statement for people to grasp and to embrace because, you know, we want to be able to label things and say no, that's just a bad person. And I think that's one of the challenges that a lot of people face upon reentry coming out of prison and things of that nature. But you saw an opportunity. And you said you know what, I want to be able to help somebody and so you've kind of made that your life's mission. And that's really what Returning Home is all about. How did you make that jump? Okay, you're out of jail, you know, getting your life together, you recognize that your wrongs and you're correcting those things, but at what point did you shift or pivot and say, you know what, I'm going to start a program for some other people so that they have something to look forward to when they do get out of jail.

Nick Robbins [5:44] Yeah, it is interesting. So I got an out of state parole to Branson, Missouri, which is a really weird place to parole to and if you've never been. But there was in Branson, the joke is you're either in a show, or you're in ministry, and since I lack any talent and abilities, I went into ministry. And so, I got a phone call- it is about a week out. So, I had to fill out all these applications I had done all this online stuff--- was the first time I'd ever been online. And so like, I'm doing all this stuff and I'm learning how to use a flip phone, and so I'm like trying to, you know, basically, get back into this community and no one's responding to me. And I get pretty discouraged. And then I get a phone call. And they said, hey, I'm from a mutual friend and we heard you just came to our community, and we run a facility for troubled teens. And so, we're interested in finding out if you'd want to work here. So, I was like, well, yeah, let's definitely talk about it. Come to find out; it's a half a mile from my house. So, I walk over there one day, and I was like, so what would it look like? What would be my job? And they said, well, you're gonna be five feet restricted to these kids, so they have to be within five feet of you. You're gonna sleep on a bunk with them. You're going to eat in the chow hall with them. And every time they do something wrong, you tell them to stop it. I was like, so it's like prison. I can do this like, like, I am made for this. And so that was my first job. And I did that for nine months. And so, it gave me the opportunity to kind of understand day to day like, what it looks like to come alongside somebody kind of that didn't so much want to make change. And then, prison fellowship was the random program that I went through when I was in prison. And they reached out to me and just said, hey, would you be willing to speak for us at an event? So that's donors. And so, they flew me out to Naples, Florida, the first time I saw the ocean. And I'm in this huge room---

Randy Wilburn [7:37] Naples is a beautiful area.

Nick Robbins [7:38] It definitely is. And Franklin Graham was there, and Chuck Colson was there. And then there was me speaking. I was like, well, that's ridiculous. I don't even know what I'm supposed to say. And so, I ended up just sharing with them sharing my passion, sharing what I wanted to do, and I got offstage, and they told me that, hey, we got an internship for you. And so, I immediately started working for them. I did that for ninety days and then they hired me full time. And so, kind of been in this field of reentry for 12 years now, I got some schooling out of Wheaton College, and they have the Chuck Colson scholarship that I received. So, I took some classes to kind of educate me on it because I had the experience, but I needed the education on the case management side and then running a nonprofit. And then, finally, it was by about 2014 when I felt called to start my own organization. But if you're somebody that committed two armed robberies, finance is a terrifying thing. And so, I'm like, I've got to raise my own support. And you know, as a nonprofit, we just raise support from individuals and churches and different businesses, and so is pretty terrifying.

And so, I started the 501(c)(3) in 2014. And then I drugged my feet for two years before I actually came on as full-time staff. So, we're just kind of trying to do it as a volunteer on my off time, and then clearly, you know, I say that the reason we make change in our life is when the pain of staying the same is worse than the pain of the change. And it became clear that things were getting painful. And the calling and the passion that I had wasn't going to be fulfilled in my current employer. And so, I just took the leap of faith, and I sat down and told my wife, I go, this is what I feel the Lord's called me to do. We're going to work for free for a month. And we're going to give our tie for six months in advance so that anybody I walk up to, I can say, if I ask you for your time, talents and resources, understand that I've done the same. So, I can never ask for something I'm unwilling to do myself. And that not only goes to your supporters but also your clients. So, any of these men and women that I'm working with, I can't tell them, hey, you shouldn't do this, or, hey, you should budget like this, or you should, you know, act a certain way. And if I'm on my free time doing all those same things, so I've got to practice what I preach. And so, we did that in 2016 and wasn't long but in March 2017, that we opened up the Returning Home Center and here at the Center, we're [inaudible 10:06] We're at 703, North Thompson, and that's directly across from Neal's Cafe. So, if you know where the Pink Cafe is, you know where we're at. So we house four different organizations under the same roof, that all serve our clients. If it's through jobs, through residential housing, if it is mental health services, we have probation parole officer here, but then we also have a total of 15 organizations that come to our location weekly and provide classes and different services. So basically, we just see ourselves as a hub for people reentering our community.

Randy Wilburn [10:43] So and I guess we didn't really talk about that. But how did you end up in Northwest Arkansas? Well, Branson is that's part of the Ozarks. We're on the other side of the Ozarks, so how did you end up here in Springdale?

Nick Robbins [10:57] Yeah. So, when I was working with Prison Fellowship, I was on parole myself, so I couldn't go far. So, I had to live where I was at. And then I have two stepsons, and their dad is actually a police officer in Branson. So, they live with me, but they're able to visit him so that's why we stayed in Branson. And I still live there - for the last 11 years, I've been commuting.

Randy Wilburn [11:21] So that's a real commitment.

Nick Robbins [11:22] Yeah. A lot of podcasts. A lot of audiobooks. It's my time of feeding. And one thing is interesting we just purchased a house in Huntsville. My youngest son is graduating so, in May, we're going to move down here and somebody asked me like, how are you going to learn? Like, what do you mean? They're like, so over three hours a day, you're driving and you're consuming and I'm listening to, you know, leadership podcast to entrepreneurial podcast to like, you know, any book somebody says, hey, you really need to read this. If it's on audio, I will. If it's on a piece of paper, I'm not reading it. And so that'd be interesting transition. But it'll be exciting because it'll free me up 12 hours a week to come up with something else to do so that will be encouraging.

Randy Wilburn [12:07] Well, yeah, you'll certainly find something to do with that time because, you know, time expands based on you know, where we are, and what we're doing. So, I'm sure you'll find another way to utilize that 12 hours wisely. And I think, you know, it's interesting you say that because a lot of people don't realize they can make their car, their university. And that's something that I do. I listen to a lot of audiobooks, audible, and then I certainly listen to my fair share of podcasts. I mean, obviously I listen to my own because I have to edit them and go through them but I also listen to a lot of others and there's just so much edifying information in podcasting general that can really help you ou. So, I am always encouraging people to find a couple of really good podcasts including this one of course, for all you listeners out there you want to download and listen to I am Northwest Arkansas on a regular basis. But even outside of that, just go around and start, you know, picking podcasts randomly and just checking them out, you'd be surprised how much really great information is out there. And there's just a ton of people like myself and others that really just have a story to share and also want to have other people share their stories, just like we're doing now. So, I think it's important

Nick Robbins [13:18] Well, what I've found in my life is that too often, we're surrounded by like-minded people and so, we only learn so much we only experience so much. Because most of the people that are around me are very similar to me. So how am I gonna learn about the majority of the world if I don't branch out? And so actually, when I'm looking at podcasts, I find one's going, I don't know a lot about that. Let me google it and see what's the best podcast about that topic so that I can learn about it, because I may not even agree with what they're saying, but I want to know what they're saying. And what I found is every time you sit down with somebody, no matter if your politics align or your faith aligns or your sports team align, there's going to be a common denominator. And the more you listen to him, the more you go, I know why the way he believes; like I understand that. So, I have people that tell me, why don't your guys just stop doing drugs? Oh, so they just need to stop. Okay, so and then I'll ask them, what were you doing when you were 12 years old? And they're like, well, you know, I was living in this community and I was going to school and we were running around playing with sticks and rocks outside, and there's a lot of fun. Well, my guy, his dad, was shooting up with heroin at 12. So, because of the circumstances, he struggles in areas that you don't struggle in because he's gripping environment that you don't even understand; and I don't understand. And, so to be able to help people, we have to understand them and to understand people, we have to be willing to invest our time, which is the most valuable thing because we can't get it back. But it's absolutely worth it because then you can go, oh, I know exactly what you do and now it makes more sense of how I can help.

Randy Wilburn [14:48] Yeah, man, you are certainly preaching to the choir. And that is, I mean, perspective is something, and when people don't have it, it's really sometimes hard for people to connect with other individuals. I think it's one of the reasons why we're having some challenges in this country right now, and that's why so many of us fall so nice and neatly into different camps. And while I don't really get into political talk on this podcast, it still is pervasive enough that you know, you're just aware of it. Right. You know, you just understand that So, but yeah, that's neither here nor there. Why don't you kind of give our audience just a kind of a glimpse into what it's like for someone coming out of jail and coming into this Center and what can they expect and what can they go through? Because somebody listening to this may have somebody that's coming out soon, and they just don't know what to do with them or what options are available to them? How do we, you know, help people so that, you know, we don't want recidivism to be as high as it is, we don't want people returning because they just weren't given an opportunity to get themselves straight or they weren't able to find a job or a place to live because maybe their family doesn't want them living with them. And so, they have to recognize that there are options out there. So, I would love it for you just to give our listeners just a quick glimpse into what it's like I'm coming out of jail, I come to this Returning Home Program, what can you do for me?

Nick Robbins [16:16] Yeah. So, the first thing to understand is that while you're incarcerated, you basically become the person people will think you're going to be like, wherever they set the standard, you're going to meet that standard. So, if I place you behind multiple layers of razor wire, and behind multiple lock doors, and I've got security staff, and I got cameras, and we're on high alert because you're a bad person is getting ready to hurt somebody. Well, I'm going to meet your expectation. And I'm going to probably try to exceed your expectation because that's the person I am. But what's different is so we only work with the highest risk individuals. So, they come from prison; they don't have identification. Most likely, they won't even have the medication they should have. They don't have community connections because the only people that are reaching out to them at this time are the ones that they do not need to be around. And so just a lot of negative influences. And so, when they come here, we don't have razor wire, we don't have security staff, we don't even have permission to touch them. So instead, we say, here's the expectation. So, what we've decided is the culture that we set will dictate your behavior. We do not set our culture based on your behavior. And so, we said, this is what the culture is here, this is the expectation we have of you. And what's been interesting last two years, everybody just assumes that that's the rules and they follow, just naturally. Hey, I'm supposed to be in at nine o'clock. Alright, guess what I'm gonna be in at nine o'clock. There didn't have to be a fence around here to keep me in at nine o'clock. It's just you lay down expectations and I follow them. Now, they may struggle here and there, but for the most part, they're gonna follow. And so, when they're going to come in, the first thing they do is we give them a hygiene kit because they don't have any. They don't even have bar soap on them. They don't have their own clothes. Most of them, when they get out, there's just this closed room that they can just try to grab something that fits them, and just walk out with the one set of clothes they hadn't been wearing the entire time because they are wearing like these jumpsuit things during their incarceration. So, they're going to show up, they don't have shoes, and they probably got some sandals. So, we get into hygiene, we give them socks and underwear, and we get them into our clothing closet. So, people donate all these things. They're donating brand new packages of socks and brand-new boxers and donating used clothes so they can go in and get what they need. And then we're going to give them their bedding, we're going to assign them to a bed and we're just going to say, hey, for seven days, you can't leave. And we're doing this so that you have the opportunity to accomplish as much as you can in seven days. Because day eight, we're gonna need you to get to work. And so, they'll be able to go to some classes, but they'll sit down with case manager and we'll find out what type of fines and fees do they owe? What counties do they owe? Are there any court dates that need to show up to? We will make all those phone calls and set up all those appointments. Find out what type of mental health do you need to be on? Are you a veteran? Do we need to connect with the VA? Then they'll have three mental health counseling sessions so they can do an evaluation, and we'll get them set up and then they'll start going to class. And so, they're gonna have class two and a half hours a day. And those classes are, you know, focused on keeping them sober, helping them manage money because they're going to have a job really quick. We connect them with employers. We have employees that come into our building and just say whoever wants to come to work, let's do this thing. We've been really blessed with and it all comes from, not that I'm great at doing a sales pitch; it's our guys do great. And so, our residential men do so well that a company goes, I hired that guy didn't even know where he was or if there's a program but he told me that his program like, do you have more guys I can hire. Now they're doing like with this one company, they'll bring in their yard equipment and they'll go and like, mow my lawn and watch the guys mow. Watch the guys weedy and then hire the ones that did a good job to run their yard crew. And so, it's just interesting to see the community embraced us in that way. And so, they've got three hot meals a day; they got a place to sleep, we connect them with the jobs and the mental health services. And then we slowly kind of bridge out and go, okay, so what are your relationships like? Who do you need to reconnect with? What's the healthiest way to do that? And sometimes it's after talking about your family; I don't think it'd be healthy for you to connect. And sometimes it's, hey, you need to connect---

Randy Wilburn [20:27] It must be a weird conversation.

Nick Robbins [20:28] It really is, and what you try to do is try to say, and we will write it on the board, we go, what are the characteristics you need to have to be successful? And I know you don't have them today, or you wouldn't be here. So, if you were the person I want you to be, you wouldn't be here in the first place, so you're the person you are. And then I need to show you the path of how do you get to the person you want to be. And so, we just say, do those relationships do their characteristics and their actions resemble your past or the future you desire? And so, with everything, just go, hey, you're talking about working this job, but you already have a job. So, you're going to quit that job and hope that the next one's better and you actually get the hours you think. Does this look like decisions you made in the past or does it look like decisions you need to make to get you where you need to go in your future? And so, a lot of that is them having to come to the understanding of; I can't do it the way I used to do it. My life can't look that way anymore. And what I always tell them is, there's going to be some point in your life, that you're going to have new friends. You're going to be talking to them, and some conversations gonna come up and you're going to mention that you had been incarcerated and they're gonna be like, no way; I don't believe that. Like, there's no way you ever did anything illegal, that makes no sense to me. My wife tells me that all time. She's a former military police officer. So, fear is how she keeps me in line. But we joke about all the time she's like, I'm glad I didn't know that guy but I can't even imagine that that was you. And we all have that opportunity to start fresh completely and Northwest Arkansas, such an amazing place that resembles that. You know, I could have started this anywhere I wanted because I was starting my own organization and I knew the stakeholders were present here. I knew the employers were present. I knew the community supports there. I knew the churches are there. I know volunteers that are available. So, I know Northwest Arkansas is special because I worked in Fort Smith. I worked in Harrison. I worked in multiple towns in Missouri like I've done this in lots of places. I've done this nationally. And so, I know what it takes to be successful and all the components are here. And, what a lot of people don't understand is there's a huge need. We have a lot of people on average, 200 to 250 people, every single month are coming back to this community from incarceration. That is a huge number. And right now, we don't do a lot of advertisements for our clients; our clients come through word of mouth. The grapevine in prison in jail is powerful. You just got to whisper something and then everybody's gonna know the next day so we average 50 new clients a month, just walk in the door and go, I heard about you. I need some help. Just the new clients, not counting the ones that keep coming back for services, the hundreds of them. And so, what we know it obviously works because people keep coming back. We just did statistics on our guys their jobs so I'm not sure if I should say this, but I'm gonna go ahead and say it. So, all the facilities that are like ours, they pulled the stats on unemployment rates, 47% of the people that are in these types of facilities have employment. And then we pulled our numbers and our numbers are 97% are employed.

Randy Wilburn [23:34] 97! 97 is different than 47.

Nick Robbins [23:28] It's a little different.

Randy Wilburn [23:40] Yeah, it's just a little bit, so when you got those statistics, I mean, outside of you kind of puffing out your chest a little bit and being excited about that. What did that mean to you?

Nick Robbins[23:50] It's one of those kinds of like a sigh of relief because there are so many different things we have been grinding since day one. When we open this place, there are very few sources. And what we do is we try to identify and a lot of it comes from our clients. I love data. We make them do surveys all the time. And we've been blessed with a lot of interns from the University of Arkansas. So, the Social Work Department, Criminal Justice Department, we've got them coming in and they're always looking for some tasks and I'm always like, pull data for us. Because we get so--- basically anybody that walks through the building, we know they're drowning. So, I'm so focused on keeping these people alive, literally. Like I've been doing this work for a long time. And somebody that I talked to one day, within a week, has been dead multiple times, time and time again like this is life or death stuff. And so, I'm so focused on just keeping people literally alive. Sometimes I'm not able to evaluate what we're doing or find out where the gap is like, man, we're not doing this that well at all. And so, one of the things that we do is every Thursday, we sit down, we have a staffing, and so present in that staffing is the Housing Directors of Phoenix Recovery overseas our housing side. And so, Phoenix Recovery's House Manager, their House Director is there; their parole officers are in that room, their mental health therapists are in that room, their job coordinators are in that room, their caseworkers are in that room. And then myself, it is over programming is in that room. So, every aspect of their life is sitting in that room going and going over each person's name going, what do they need? Is this person struggling on this? This person's daughter just passed away. Okay, what's that look like on the mental health side? Well, we were just seeing them once a week, we'll go ahead and start scheduling every other day, to just make sure we're touching base with them, making sure everything's okay. All right, what's that look like on work? I'll actually let their employer know so their supervisors where there's anything weird just to let us know so that we can intervene because there will be a struggle. It will manifest itself somewhere in their life and we just want everyone to be aware so that we could react in a healthy way of supporting them and coming alongside them. And then sometimes we find out from the mental health therapists someone decided not to take their medication anymore. Hence, support staff needs to know that because if this person is getting aggressive like we need to know, that's where it's stemming from and that helps us with the discussion. Man, you know, this isn't you, you know, you're struggling right now, because you're not on your medication. Why don't we get back on it because the only other option from here, if you don't complete the 90 days, you're going to jail? That's part of the contract. When they sign it, they say, I'm coming here to do 90 days. And if it does not work out, I'm going to jail. And then the parole board is going to decide what happens to me. They may let them out and they find another address, or they may go back to prison for 90 days. So, they are a couple of goals. One is to intervene in someone's life before they commit a crime. So, the people that we're sending back, they go to prison, it's not because they're committing crimes, it's because they're violating their parole, which is rule-based. So, you failed the drug test, or you stop showing up to class or you quit your job and you're refusing to pay rent. Like so, we want to intervene before the community is impacted in a negative way.

Randy Wilburn [27:01] Okay. Wow. So, I mean, just listening to all this and there are so many moving parts. How can people help you guys out? Where I mean, just whether I'm an individual that's just hearing this and really moved and I want to help out? I mean, I want to give in some way. You were so kind enough to give me a great tour and I got to see everything here. You mean, you have a goodwill location where there's clothing for individuals that maybe don't have anything? And they can pick a couple of items. You have a food pantry. You mentioned the hygiene earlier, which is really important. How can people that are listening to this if they want to be involved? How can they get involved?

Nick Robbins [27:38] Yeah, the best way is to go to our website, it's returninghomenwa.com. And on the site, it kind of shows the different ways to connect. We are Returning Home as a nonprofit; we are funded by donations. So, donation is always huge. There are always volunteer opportunities if somebody's interested in facilitating classes. We also have other people interested in going, hey, I'd love to come and speak at just one class. So, we love bringing in specialists. You may not even think you know what you're bringing to the tables is important. We had a real estate agent come in and we had a banker come in and we had people from all different fields. We had a former police chief from Fayetteville came in. I want them to hear people's stories. I want them to know we all care about them. We have a specialist or somebody that does it really well; I want them to kind of share what that looks like, why it's important. We have insurance people that come in, just kind of talk about the value of having insurance. We've had healthcare clinics come in and talk about; it's cheaper to take care of yourself on a regular basis, make appointments, and get dental done, eyes get done than wait until everything falls apart, and then run to the emergency room and be in debt for many years; so that's always important. Then, if it's business or church, we want to just kind of connect; definitely, reach out. There are lots of different opportunities. We actually do a sale from vendors donate overstock items to us. And we do a warehouse sale in November of each year. And the last year we did it, we actually raised $10,000, from selling stuff that vendors were looking to move out so they can get more room for their new stock. We have one of the vendors, lets us utilize their warehouse so throughout the year, we can just store stuff until the sale actually comes. And so that's a great opportunity. And then the 15 organizations that come in, we say it's not about institutionalized success. It's not about making them successful while they're here. It's about making them successful in the community. So, what's it looks like to bridge the gap to the community? So, if there are people that are, you know, in a church or in a support group or doing something outside of this building, you're going, I just want them to be aware that this is out there, and that we welcome them in? You don't know how exciting that is for them to go and wait a second, so you know the worst thing about me, you showed up and you just invited me to your group; that's pretty amazing. That gives them hope. Every time somebody comes and says you're a value, and I want you to come alongside me to be a part of what my life that just gives them the hope because what we've done, it's too bad. But as a society, when you throw somebody in prison, you're telling him, we're not comfortable with you being in our community and being in society and their actions lead to that totally understandable, we don't justify any of that. But at some point, then you have to welcome them back in because they're coming back in, but if you don't welcome them, that actually causes a lot of issues. And so mentally, they're thinking, you know, no one even wants me here. Everybody's against me. I couldn't go ask for help because they would just turn me away. And I was working with one guy in Fayetteville. And as many years ago we walked into the Social Security office and they actually had his birth location down wrong. I said he's born in Tennessee, and he's like, Nick, I've never left Fayetteville in my life unless I was in prison. So, I was like, we really need to get a social security card and I don't care what you got on your screen. And they just said no. And it was our third no for the day. He walks out to the car and he goes, Nick, if I hear another no, I'm going back to the lifestyle. They'll tell me yes, every time. And I was like, let's go out to eat. That waiter will tell you, yes, whatever you want, man. Let's go get you something--- But anybody's gonna get to that point if you just keep getting pushed away going, it's not gonna work. It's not gonna work. It's not gonna work. You get discouraged when you walk into the DMV, and you say, hey, I gotta get a non-driver's license photo ID. They're gonna say, do you have a birth certificate, social security card? You say no. To get my birth certificate you actually need a photo ID. But to get a photo ID, I need my birth certificate. And then you're just going to spin around in a circle for days, because no ones gonna sit down and say, here are some alternatives. Let's see if we can get this printed out. Let's call their supervisor if we need to because we do that. And so, we actually have staff every single week, take our clients to the DMV and just say no, this is what we're going to get and yet we do it every week, so it is okay. And probably once a month, we'll get a few guys they'll turn away even though they did the same way we do it every single time. And then next week, we just bring them in, they'll get it the next time. But if it's somebody that doesn't have that assistance, they're going to turn away and so you may be that person that said, I want to help and be a part of that system. Not sure what way and connect with us and we could definitely find something and love to give you a tour just to kind of know what's going on in your community.

Randy Wilburn [32:26] Man, I love that. I love that. You've really given our listening audience kind of a picture of what Returning Home is all about. And I certainly want to commend you for figuring out a way to give back even outside of your circumstances and say, you know, I want to make other people go through something different than maybe what I went through. And I mean, it's a great story all around, and I'm glad that we were able to connect and that you were able to share this. Just so many things that you guys are doing and we'll put all this in the show notes so people know how to get connected with you. How to reach the website? If they want to donate, we'll make sure that we put all that information on the show notes so that they can learn more about all the great things that Nick Robins is doing here at Returning Home Center. And again, they're right across from Neal's here in Springdale, on Thompson Street. And so, you know, it's a great organization. And I would encourage you guys---. Every week, I'm blown away and not even just--- every day I'm blown away by all the great things that are happening here in Northwest Arkansas. And this is just one example of that. So, Nick, thank you so much for being on the podcast and for sharing. Any final thoughts that you want to leave with our audience before we close out?

Nick Robbins [33:38] Well, definitely thank you for what you're doing. You know, giving the opportunity to enlighten our community on all the great things that are being done and you will be inspiring people's passion. Because somebody is listening to us right now going, I've been wanting to do that for years. Let me jump on and try to figure that out. And so, you could be starting the next Returning Home organization just by being willing to share and kind of cast that vision. All I'd say is if there is something in your heart is saying that, hey, this is the population that I want to serve, or I know somebody that needs these services, reach out, because I never get tired about talking about what I'm passionate about what I've been created to do. So, we'd just love to hear from you.

Randy Wilburn [34:18] I can see that. Well, thank you so much, man. We really appreciate you.

Well, folks, there you have it. Nick Robins, Executive Director of Returning Home here at 703 North Thompson Street in Springdale. It's right across from Neal's Restaurant. They're close to a little bit of everything over in this area, not far off of Emma, not terribly far from the Job Center. Fairly easy to get to. But I certainly would encourage you to reach out to Nick and as I said, I'll put all of his contact information on the show notes and that way, you guys can check it out for yourselves and see what all the good news is all about.

So that's all we have for today. We really appreciate you guys listening to I am Northwest Arkansas on a regular basis and, you know, we're going to continue to bring this type of content and we really would appreciate your support. As I always do, I'd like to ask you to do three things for me. One, I'd certainly encourage you to visit our website, iamnorthwestarkansas.com. Check it out. I'd love for you to join our email list and get our weekly newsletter, learning about all the great things that are happening here in Northwest Arkansas. And then just if you could just share with a friend that, hey, I've listened to the, I am Northwest Arkansas podcast and if you want to know anything about Northwest Arkansas, you need to listen to that podcast. I'm sure that Nick's gonna listen to it on a regular basis on his drive back and forth to Huntsville. No pressure Nick but you know, but the bottom line is seriously I really want you to share this with other people. If you really like the, I am Northwest Arkansas podcast and it means something for you, we would really appreciate it more than anything else, you just sharing. And as always, wherever you listen to podcasts, whether it's on Apple, Spotify, we'd love a rating and a five-star review and just let us know what we're doing right maybe let us know what you'd like to hear more of and just reach out and as always, you can reach me Randy the host at randy@iamnorthwestarkansas.com and I'll get right back to you right away. As a matter of fact, you'll be surprised at how quickly I will respond to you.

So that's all I have for today. Again, we appreciate you so much. All of our listening audience there and I am Northwest Arkansas nation, and we will see you next week. Peace.

IO

IANWA Open [36:33] We hope you enjoyed this episode of I am Northwest Arkansas. Check us out each and every week available anywhere that great podcasts can be found. For show notes or more information on becoming a guest, visit iamnorthwestarkansas.com. We'll see you next week on I am Northwest Arkansas.

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