Written By: Broken Chains Ministry and Katie Sobiech
It’s been a while since we caught up with Broken Chains Ministry. So where have they been, and what have they been up to?
They have been working around the clock to create and sustain programs such as their Workforce Development Program and the Urbean Café, to drop recidivism rates of ex-offenders, providing them with opportunity, while making the city a safer place.
One of the greatest barriers faced by citizens returning from incarceration is unemployment. While the State of Ohio unemployment rate is currently about 9.5%, current estimates show that the unemployment rate for men and women in various stages of reentry is an astronomical 25%-40%.
As a result of this statistic, Broken Chains Ministry (BCM) is committed to being an advocate for changes that help reverse this statistic in our region by being part of the solution. Their Workforce Development Program (WDP) allows them the opportunity to create a self-sustaining business model specifically for the purpose of training former offenders to reenter the workplace.
Step number one is to give them a job.
Creating the Urbean Café
Reentry of ex-offenders back into the community continues to be a critical criminal justice issue on the national, state, and local level as the number of former prisoners continues to grow.
A key policy concern emerging from this tremendous growth is how to help former offenders successfully reintegrate back into their communities and reduce recidivism in the process.
Ex-offender unemployment is a primary concern of reentry policy. Therefore, BCM saw it as crucial to manage the Urbean Café, and did so beginning in July of 2011.
Located at The Robert K. Pfaff Metro Transit Center at 631 S. Broadway St. in Akron, Ohio, where approximately 6,000 people from our communities and from out of town visit each day, the Urbean Cafe is serving the community as a non-profit organization.
With a menu that serves breakfast, delicious lunch items, cold drinks, ice cream, and their own special brew of coffee, Urbean Cafe is an ideal place for “filling up” for hungry and thirsty travelers.
While Urbean Cafe is a social venture and has a definite social purpose, its primary purpose is to be a Workforce Development Program for ex-offenders to help prepare them with the proper job skills that will propel them to the next step in their employment.
Currently, Urbean Cafe has 8 employees, 6 of which are ex-offenders.
Some of their focus areas also include helping these men and women to become self-sufficient and overcome the effects of generational poverty, basic workplace etiquette, budgeting, setting up a bank account, completing requirements of community control (including probation and parole), restitution, identity restoration (such as state I.D., birth certificate and social security card), handling money transactions, trust building, customer relations, and becoming part of a team.
One of the unique attributes of Urbean Cafe as a social venture and entrepreneurial Workforce Development Program is to collaborate with other agencies and organizations to place men and women into workforce development that many other employers may consider high risk.
One of their collaborations is with The Summit County Department of Job & Family Services WEP Program. The goal of the Work Experience Program (WEP) is to enable participants to develop work skills that will enhance their ability to obtain and retain employment, and work toward a better job.
WEP assignments include internships as part of a training program, volunteer work, hands-on training in a specific occupational skill, and placement at a public, private, or non-profit organization.
As if this isn’t enough, BCM is doing much more to help repair “the system”. Watch for Part Two on how they are improving economic development, using evidence-based practices to create real, lasting change and some exciting new things coming this fall!
For more information please visit http://www.brokenchainsministry.org .
If you have any story ideas, questions, or comments you can contact: Katie@akroneur.com.