UCOM Makes Re-entry Easier
March 21st, 2011
“The reason why I'm homeless is because I am a convicted felon. No on will hire me. I've done my time but society wound let me stop doing my time. I just want a job and a place to live. after all I'm 51yo.” –Alan Reeder, Los Angeles
Where do you turn?
Where do you turn for hope when you are newly released from prison? When Marcus got out he found his family ties severed and no church connections able to help. There were way too many people standing in line for available jobs—people who had not spent the past eight years behind bars. Housing soon was an issue, and Marcus became one of the homeless. Now he is sleeping in missions when he can and under the bridge when the missions are too crowded. Drugs and alcohol are all around him, and there is plenty of peer pressure to engage in some of the behaviors that brought him to prison in the first place. When he was first released Marcus was determined to do it right this time, but every day of negative reinforcement takes him one step further from his goal. Marcus is on his way to being a statistic—one more of the 67% of released prisoners who find their way back into incarceration within three years of their release.
What crime, incarceration and recidivism do to a community
You have seen the detriments of crime and recidivism: broken homes, children without good role models, unsafe neighborhoods, rampant drug abuse, homelessness and hopelessness. The Michigan Department of Corrections agrees that there must be a better way to use our resources rather than building more prisons—a way that helps people to re-integrate into society, to become productive citizens, to restore family relationships and to forge new networks that lead to improved lives.
Restore Hope, a program of UCOM, is just such a restorative justice model. Our newest project Dave’s House is a broad-based collaborative, the least including an intermediate residence for people who really want to get their lives together after release from incarceration. Utilizing an integrated program of education, psychological and spiritual support, job-readiness preparation, transitional employment, job placement, and community involvement, Dave’s House offers another chance to people who have failed to live up to society’s expectations. It holds people accountable for their past and helps them to take responsibility for their present and future.
“If I had a wish it is that the whole community would get behind Dave’s House and make it happen. Housing is such a need for re-entering people, right up there with employment.”
--Yvonne Jackson, Michigan Prisoner Re-entry Initiative coordinator for Kent and Allegan Counties, MI
“I get emotional when I think of the guys who are trying to make it on the outside and are sleeping under the bridge. What kind of chance do they have to make good?”
--The late David C. Moore, M. Div., Founder of Restore Hope, ex-offender
What you can do
In United Church Outreach Ministry’s 2011-2016 Strategic Plan, opening Dave’s House is scheduled for 2011. An outstanding advisory committee of community leaders is poised to open Dave’s House to our first group of re-entering citizens this year. First, we need to add your support to this project. The start-up costs and first year of operation require about $170,000. Two very generous gifts totaling $55,000 bring us nearly 1/3 of the way to our goal. Your gift will make sure we open on time. Every day counts as we move to make our community safer, families happier and lives better by this innovative collaboration.
My next blog post, The Neighbors Speak of the Need for Dave’s House, will be a series of quotes and bullet points from community people expressing the benefits of having such a restorative justice project and residence in their community. Ok, and a few ideas of my own.
How do you feel about a program like this in your neighborhood? Please comment below.