Everyone deserves a second chance, even ex-cons, and beginning April 1, two local agencies are stepping up to help make that happen.
The Crossing will provide shelter for some individuals who are getting out of prison, and Habitat for Humanity of St. Joseph will provide workforce development for them.
From 2010 to 2019, the average percentage of former Missouri inmates who return to prison was 46.2% within five years. However, that number includes parole violations. New convictions in that same time period were 26.6%, according to the Missouri Department of Corrections.
A local partnership like the one between The Crossing and Habitat provides a chance to lower these numbers.
Donna Wilson, a community health liaison with Mosaic Life Care, spoke on behalf of The Crossing, as she works closely with its owner, Danny Gach.
“Our goal is within three months to have 32 guys in place,” Wilson said. “The hope is within 90 to 120 days, they’ll be able to exit on their own with a job with sustainable housing, so that they can earn a livable wage.”
Ex-cons face a difficult world when they are released from prison. Some return to crime after they feel it is their only option when they are backed into a corner, as far as not being able to find a job or a place to stay. Wilson has met some of these individuals when they were applying for a food box at The Crossing’s Nutrition Center, which is located next door to the reentry building.
“They’re sort of lost,” Wilson said. “The goal here is that they will be given that chance to figure it out while they are housed and safely housed.”
If safe housing is part one, then employment is part two, and that’s where Cate Manly enters the scene. She’s the executive director for Habitat for Humanity in St. Joseph.
Habitat has a license from the Home Builders Institute, which allows the agency to train individuals so they can receive certifications in construction.
“We know that people are people and sometimes people make bad decisions or bad choices,” Manly said. “But you always have an opportunity to wake up the next day and redefine yourself by doing better.”
The resources Habitat plans to provide to the reentry program are similar to what’s already made available to young people in Youth Build. That program offers students who didn’t finish high school a chance to do so while also getting paid to learn construction or nursing.
The training “is competency based, so it can take anywhere from two weeks to 90 days,” Manly said.
She’ll have Tim Osborne heading up those classes, which will include refurbishing a couple floors inside the building. Osborne is the community outreach director at Habitat, and he is also the Restore manager.
“They can work on the building here,” Osborne said.
The first floor of the reentry building is finished, and it has bunk beds, showers, bathrooms, a kitchen and common areas, but the upstairs has been left incomplete so former inmates could have a short commute to work.
“There’s also a couple other buildings on The Crossing campus that they’ll have the opportunity to work on,” Osborne said. “It may be carpentry, could be plumbing, it could be electrical, we’ll help them on that path and find a community partner that can take them under their wing and teach them those follow-up skills.”