Champions of Courage: Joseph Jones
Updated: Friday, February 21 2014, 10:41 PM EST
During Black History Month, Champions of Courage is our way of thanking those who serve the community and keep the teachings if Dr. Martin Luther King alive.
Joseph Jones overcame a life of crime and not only turned his life around, but is now helping others do the same. Jones is the director of the Center for Urban Families, a non-profit in west Baltimore that helps men and women learn the skills to become self-sufficient.
"We don't care about what you did yesterday, so you can forget about everything you did, but once you step through this door, your life has to change," said Jones.
Shirome Owens was once a northeast Baltimore resident making money the only way he knew how - outside the law. He was behind bars for seven-and-a-half before the Center for Urban Families opened the door to a life that once seemed impossible.
The bond came naturally between Jones and Owens, who shared similar stories.
Jones grew up in east Baltimore public house with a single mom and dabbled in a dangerous game. "Unfortunately, for me I was such an extremist, I went straight to shooting heroin and cocaine," said Jones. At 22, Jones became a father, but his son took a backseat to his life on the streets.
It wasn't until 1986 that his life took a drastic turn. "I went to drug treatment, not to get clean honestly, I went into drug treatment to duck jail, I was about to go to jail again for a very long time."
In 1997, Jones finished rehab and reentered the world with a newfound ambition. He earned degrees in Accounting and Social Work and landed a job at the Baltimore City Health Department helping low-income women have health babies.
But in each new life was the reminder of his own past mistakes and Jones knew he had to break the cycle of absent fathers. "You know they didn't have a consistent place to live, they had child support orders that were so large that it was impractical for them to take a legal job."
He started a program to help those men find jobs and provide for their families, but then Jones took it one step further. The Center for Urban Families was then born.
And while he can never erase the past, he is focused on the road ahead and the future he almost lost.