Antwain Ramsey recalled the phone call he received from his sister just minutes after meeting his probation officer. Having just been released “with no direction,” she told him if he wanted a bed to go to the Career Training and Employment Center (CTEC) and talk to Ron. At that time, he didn’t realize he would be part of, and help build, a supportive community at Hope Reentry Campus, let alone become BOSS’ 2020 valedictorian at the annual CTEC Graduation.

“Walking into BOSS that day was the door of a whole new life.”

“Walking into BOSS that day was the door of a whole new life,” he says. While Antwain had been homeless for two and a half years prior to joining BOSS and he had continuously made the effort to better himself, he credits the words of encouragement from the BOSS staff and from his peers, who believed in him and his ability to work hard.

“I never looked for help before and I always had to help myself — I was the only one to help myself.” But things changed at BOSS and Antwain slowly began accepting the help and genuine support and care of BOSS staff and other participants. Now he says, “The best thing is when you have a backbone and people to support you.” 

“Jail is just learning how to get in and get out. Hope Reentry wants you to know that you’re free.

Antwain also spoke about his experience with the Hope Reentry Campus, BOSS’ reentry housing program in East Oakland that provides transitional housing and health/mental health services for individuals being released from incarceration. 

“Jail is just learning how to get in and get out. Hope Reentry wants you to know that you’re free. Hope Reentry has been very powerful in dealing with so many different people.” He acknowledged that the pandemic brought him closer to his community; he continues to make BBQ for the BOSS community after work!

Antwain aspires to give back to other community members who struggle with homelessness and a loss of hope after probation. Antwain recommends BOSS to as many people as he can, including people right out front of the Downtown Oakland Impact Hub (where CTEC is housed). He reminds them, “don’t give up on yourself,” and checks to see if they’ve been coming back to CTEC week after week.  

“Most of my thoughts are about my grandkids and my daughter. I want to keep my life straight of them, and make them proud.”

While the pandemic has made it harder for Antwain to spend time with his family, he purposefully makes time to strengthen the relationship with his daughter. He says, “Most of my thoughts are about my grandkids and my daughter. I want to keep my life straight of them, and make them proud.” He looks forward to hanging up his awards from BOSS in his apartment after he moves in so he can have them in one place to show his kids and grandchildren.

Antwain has undoubtedly made remarkable achievements within the past year alone, and he notes, “I got a lot of stuff I want and need to do, but I’m going to do it one step at a time…I taught myself how to have patience with everything.”

“It all just hit me, all at once, all at one time. I can’t do anything but be proud of myself.”

These days, Antwain spends the mornings at CTEC before he goes to his job “right upstairs.” He is also in the process moving out of Hope Reentry Campus and settling into his new apartment. “It all just hit me, all at once, all at one time. I can’t do anything but be proud of myself.”