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Strangers unite as roommates due to a program that provides formerly imprisoned with a home

Tyler Jenk and Askar Johnson were destined to meet as roommates and now they share their love for sports, construction and cooking.

Strangers unite as roommates due to a program that provides formerly imprisoned with a home
Cover Image Source: YouTube CBS News

We come across people who need us as much as we need them, only at the right time. Last year, this happened to Tyler Jenk, who was looking for a roommate. He met Askari Johnson, who was looking for a fresh start in life, as he was recently released from San Quentin State Prison after more than 20 years. The duo formed a harmonious relationship despite coming from different walks of life, as reported by CBS News



Johnson had planned what life would look like after he was out of prison. At this point, his lawyer told him about The Homecoming Project. "The Homecoming Project is a program to place formerly incarcerated people into homes that are potentially a better situation than halfway houses," Jenk explained to CBS News. "The program pays their rent and gives them a laptop and a cellphone and guidance to help get started back in society."



The Homecoming Project is run by Impact Justice and funded by Wells Fargo. Impact Justice says formerly incarcerated people are almost 10 times more prone to becoming homeless. And without the right support by their side, more than 66 percent of prisoners are rearrested within a few years of their release. "It fits the goals that I set for myself when I was in prison," Johnson said. "I kept in touch with a lot of people that had parole prior to me. So I really lived vicariously through their lives – the ups and downs, the good, the bad, the indifferent. And so, having that experience living through them, it helped me prepare for my success even more," he added.

"When you meet somebody, you get a vibe from them that's good or bad or somewhere in between. And it was just a good vibe," Johnson said about meeting Jenk for the first time. "He had a good sense of humor about the whole situation, the interview went well. It was just natural." 

They also found out what was common between them, "He's in construction, I'm in construction. We both like sports. So it was just a match made in heaven, so to speak," Johnson said. "Tyler doesn't know this," Johnson revealed, "but he likes to cook and I like to cook. But I'd be kind of embarrassed for other people to test my cooking. So there were a couple of times when I cooked something and I came this close to offering it to him, but I was like, 'No if he tastes this and doesn't like it, I wonder if he'll tell me the truth or tell me it's good then run to the back room and spit it out.'"

As for Jenk, "It feels good to help, so [I was] happy to help," Jenk said. "Askari didn't need too much help, but being in construction, you know, he would ask questions, he could ping ideas off me, job opportunities, what unions, what I thought I thought about his job opportunities and kind of help out."


"There's an old saying: Preparation meets opportunity equals success," Johnson said. "So, I've been preparing for this seriously the last seven years of my incarceration." "So, when I came home, people asked that question all the time, 'What does it feel like?' And I always say it felt like I never left," he continued. "I couldn't have written a better script." We agree. With the right planning and support, Johnson has found not just a new roommate but also a second chance at life!

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