'Flip the Script' program transforms 26-year-old Detroit father's life

Home has eluded Jamal Clemons for 26 years – his entire life.

Placed in the foster care system as an infant, and repeatedly finding himself in-and-out of jail, Clemons never had a place to call his own and peacefully lay his head.

Now, with the help of Goodwill of Greater Detroit’s Flip the Script program and Humble Design, Clemons has a fully-furnished Detroit apartment that even boasts a bed for his 3-year-old son, Lamaj.

"I'm finally home. I finally got a place," he said. "For years, I've been hopping from bed to bed, place to place. I never felt like I was welcome; I overstayed my welcome. I finally feel like I'm somewhere I can call home, and I'm forever grateful."

Flip the Script is an initiative that aids those who are formerly incarcerated, unemployed, or underemployed by offering education, employment support, and financial guidance, according to the program.

A small but mighty crew from Humble Design, a non-profit that assists people and families transitioning out of homelessness, transformed Clemons' apartment on Friday.

"It's just nice to be part of the journey of someone who is flipping the script and turning their life around," said Jill Sykes, a designer with Humble Design. "Just giving him nothing that he has to worry about. Now, he's all set, and he can just continue on with a fresh start."

Jamal Clemons gets teary-eyed as he walks around his new Detroit apartment. 

Goodwill of Greater Detroit’s Flip the Script program has seen great success – with a 75% completion rate and 84% job placement success.

"It's about improving the quality of life," said Gregory Anderson, the director of the program. "You may not have a support system; we become your family. So it's more than just a program, it's actually a family environment – not only with the staff, but the people that we serve. And so Jamal is one of our family members. Of course, we want to see him with a home."

Clemons wiped away tears as he looked around his new home.

Since joining Flip the Script, Clemons has gotten his GED, his welding certification, Hi-Lo certification, a job as a welder, and now a place to call his own. He has put in the work to really flip the script and ensure himself and his son a better future.

"That's my world, my pride and joy, the reason I breathe every day, the reason I keep going," Clemons said. "Without him, I don't know what my life would be. I had to turn it around for him."

Jamal Clemons and his 3-year-old son, Lamaj.

So what's next for the young father? A career that he can bring some first-hand experience to.

"I start Wayne State University in August to be a social worker," Clemons said. "I want to help open up a non-profit for foster care kids because I've been in foster care my whole life, so I want to go back to the roots… and be the stepping stone for them, and let them know that they ain't by themselves."

To learn more about Goodwill of Greater Detroit's Flip the Script program, goodwilldetroit.org/services.

To learn more about Humble Design, visit humbledesign.org.