The journey back to life . . . as an independent and contributing member of the community.
There is a lot to consider when someone is working toward a second chance to live their best life, Just Dane’s Journey Home helps it all come together.
The Journey Home works to reduce recidivism (return to prison), and creates a stronger, safer community. This is accomplished in many ways that tie into the logistics of living life. These areas include finding residency, employment, support and treatment, as well as transportation and education.
Our program staff assesses the needs, and determines strengths and potential barriers facing individuals who are newly released from prison (returning citizens).
The services that JustDane’s Resource Specialists provide for returning citizens are as follows:
- One-to-one case management
- Food Share eligibility screening and referral
- Program connection and referral
- Life skills training
- Employability and Job placement assistance
- Ongoing support and monitoring to reduce recidivism.
Through Journey Home, we also have a small micro-loan program set up through private donations for active program participants to assist with security deposits, work clothes, school supplies, etc. A non-perishable emergency food pantry is also on site.
Building Community Relationships & Awareness
A large part of our success comes from the willingness of those in our greater community to learn more about how they can help support those who are working to build a new life as returning citizens.
Here are some of the ways we accomplish this:
- Part of the responsibilities of our Resource Specialists is to spend time building relationships with area employers and landlords to increase the opportunities for housing and employment for returning citizens. Our program staff conducts in-reach visits to area prisons to connect with individuals prior to their release and to build a more seamless return to the community.
- Monthly Service Fairs through the Journey Home serve as a one-stop shop to provide access to multiple resources in one location. Each month, the service fair has a theme built around Residency, Employment, Support and Treatment. Community-based organizations and groups provide information about their services, including training, education, transportation, housing, treatment and support networks. Each service fair includes a welcome home, an inspirational speaker and, in keeping with the tradition across faiths to offer hospitality, a light meal.
- JustDane’s Returning Prisoner Simulation gives participants an “up close” view of what it’s like to come home from prison. It uses realistic scenarios to introduce participants to the struggles that released prisoners are likely to encounter.
- The Phoenix Initiative provides support and assistance for men. This initiative creates an environment where individuals feel comfortable participating in open, honest and safe discussion. The group provides participants an opportunity to engage in discussion(s) on issues important to them, and acquire decision making skills. Group meets via Zoom on Mondays.
The Journey Home program is a signature initiative of United Way of Dane County.
example of success story
“MT” is a Journey Home participant. Because of the nature of his offense, he has additional restrictions placed on him through his supervision with the WI Department of Corrections. These restrictions can add additional obstacles to rebuilding one’s life. MT was eager to begin working with his Resource Specialist to put the pieces back in place. Prior to prison, he had had a good work history, and with the help of his Resource Specialist, obtained some letters of support from previous employers.
MT was a certified welder and had good mechanical aptitude but still could not find a job that would not conflict with the rules of his supervision. MT continued to work with his Resource Specialist, exploring job leads and brainstorming other areas where his skill set might be valuable. MT was active in Just Dane’s employability classes and continued to attend those while looking for employment. MT was open to almost any type of employment and continued to look. During this time MT experienced a significant medical issue. Despite having a family history of colon cancer, he had not received any screening while incarcerated. When he went to a routine check-up with his new physician, the doctor ordered a screen and MT was diagnosed with colon cancer. He underwent surgery, removing a significant portion of his colon and began to recuperate, all the time staying in contact with his Resource Specialist for support.
While MT was recuperating, he received call with an offer of employment with a farm implement company. The job was set to begin in July, but as MT and his Resource Specialist explained to the employer, MT needed a little more time to recover. The employer, himself a colon cancer survivor, was willing to wait for MT to be cleared for work. Once cleared, MT began his new, full-time job at $10.00 per hour, working 40-44 hours per week. MT continued to work with his Resource Specialist and check-in’s, he had good relationship with his boss and enjoyed his job.
In October 2014, MT met with his Resource Specialist and informed him that he was getting a raise and the keys to the shop in which he worked. Through all of this, MT still did not have housing. However, with his increase in wages and positive references he was finally able to obtain an apartment in November 2014. As of August 2015, MT is still employed, still housed, and still enjoys his job. He has come full circle and is using his positive experience to help others as he now volunteers with Just Dane, attends Journey Home Service Fairs, and shares his story with other men and women newly released from prison.