PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A Philadelphia woman is helping people navigate life after prison following her own experience with the criminal justice system left her to fend for herself.
Rev. Michelle Simmons founded Why Not Prosper in Germantown more than 20 years ago. After she was released from prison, she found there weren't many resources to help people in the reentry process.
So, she became a resource herself.
"Our three goals here are to help them stay clean, help them to make family-sustaining wages, and to reunite with their children," said Simmons, the founder and executive director of the halfway house.
"I am a formerly incarcerated woman myself, and I was in prison and as I exited the prison and started my journey on reentry, I was running into barrier after barrier," she explained.
She couldn't find a house, a job, or anyone to help her get her kids back.
"I just kept getting told 'No you can't have, no you do, no you can't be,' and so I really got tired of being told no," she said.
Instead of giving up, she decided to open her own door. In nearly 23 years since starting Why Not Prosper, Simmons has helped more than 1,700 women through programs prioritizing sisterhood.
She can house up to 25 women at once in her three Germantown properties. She's also working on making apartments in Harrisburg available and building a retreat in the Poconos.
Housing, however, is not the only resource she offers. She also has dozens of programs targeting jobs, family aid, and healthcare to help women.
Another goal of Why Not Prosper is to extend help to the entire community.
Every week, Simmons and her staff put out food and clothing outside of the house to make sure the whole neighborhood can prosper.
"They want to feel supported, they want to feel important, so I feel super encouraged to be an encouragement to someone," Simmons said.