Strong Reentry Network Growing in Summit County (Part Seven)

By: Katie Sobiech

What is so great about Summit County is the fact that there are so many caring and giving hearts, willing to reach out to those who need a “hand up” in society.

But with that comes a slew of well-meaning but often misled groups, who can actually end up doing more harm than good.

Some of these groups include faith-based missions, which the Summit County Reentry Network (SCRN) hopes to reach and teach.

Some in the faith community feel it is their calling to reach out to those in prison, and genuinely want to help returning citizens. But it is lack of knowledge in this area that often sets them back. This is what the SCRN and Oriana House hope to change through education.

Know What Works

“The state has evaluated programs based on criteria that they know works. They give us a rating on how affective our program should be based on (certain) benchmarks,” Bernie Rochfield, Executive Director of the Oriana House, explained.

“So we’re trying to push that through the training to the providers,” he continued.

Whether it is providers running a homeless or housing network, or a faith-based group for returning citizens, the SCRN shares what research shows works and what doesn’t work and how you can implement what works into your programs.


Importance of Faith

“If you want to have a Bible study great, that probably gets positive, pure culture. But you need to do more than just pray for people, you’ve got to do something else to be successful. Those are the types of things we want to put out with all of the trainings and providers. These (are the) big pots that are stirring,” Bernie explained.

And to be clear, they aren’t brushing away the importance of faith. They find it to be a wonderful piece of the puzzle for those needing a second chance.

“It’s important because a lot of people do find a phenomenal, authentic, deep faith when they’re incarcerated. They come home and want to have that continue to be supported,” Terry Tribe-Johnson, Summit County Reentry Coordinator, shared.

Local Ministry Outreach

And so now, ministries are really jumping on board with not only the spiritual aspect, but providing practical help for returning citizens.

“The Catholic Commission is really on the cutting edge in Summit County of getting the word out in their parishes that this population has so much potential and has traditionally been ignored,” Tribe-Johnson shared.

St. Sebastian’s holds a spiritual outing called “Faith Lodge” where Rochfield shares what’s going on at the Oriana House, bringing faith into the message.

Terry has also spoken to different groups at the Catholic Commission and they’ve put together employment binders for people under-employed as a result of the economic downturn.

“They specifically wanted to have people with barriers because of convictions be able to use those binders. And they’re encouraging job clubs within the parishes,” Tribe-Johnson said.

On the flip side, some turn a blind eye to ex-felons.

“We still have churches that have no idea (of the change of heart of returning citizens) and don’t want to accept them,” Tribe-Johnson said.

Encouraging Good Ideas

St. Barnabas Catholic Church has implemented a new networking component to their job club where they have parishioners sign up with something they can network, such as engineering, community home care, florist, etc.

“They found that linking people who are unemployed with someone who could help them network into that industry (made) the employment go up. It was startling. They couldn’t even believe how successful it was,” Tribe-Johnson shared.

The local Circles program has something similar going on as well.

“They have peers or allies that they learn from. It’s important. Reentry is all about relationship. It’s about the person coming home and their family members, a community provider, employers, elected officials are all in it together,” Tribe Johnson explained.

Connecting with Community Resources

And it’s not just the faith-based that they continue to work with, but other caring hearts throughout the community.

“We’re blessed to have a really strong United Way with a lot of integrity in this county. They don’t want to waste time or money. They want to get to the heart of where the needs are and they’re plugging volunteers in there,” Tribe-Johnson said.

Tribe-Johnson refers people to the United Way because they have a matching database for needs. It’s a great resource center.

They also seek to help veterans who can apply through the Veteran’s Service Commission for help.

“I got a call from the guy that said ‘I’m not a veteran. Don’t have any kids under 16 and haven’t been able to get a job because I have criminal convictions in my history so what do I do?’” Tribe Johnson shared.

So they referred him to Family Promise of Summit County, who helps prevent homelessness among families and gets people in these types of situations into housing.

Funding What Works

From this day forward, they hope to focus on funding only what works.

The United Way recently received a grant which they call the “Launch Fund”. Family Promise also gave to the fund.

“This is very, very exciting; it’s really helping people move ahead,” Tribe-Johnson said.

The Dalton Family Foundation added another $15,000 to the Launch Fund which will be used specifically for people with criminal backgrounds.

The Dalton Foundation also has a vision for an online database they refer to as “ReLink”. This will help returning citizens get “linked-up” to community resources and people who will help them move forward.

With all of these efforts being poured into the reentry world, it’s best that we listen to the experts and research, and follow the models that are proven to work. For trainings please find out more by contacting the SCRN: .

Watch for next week’s story as we conclude with the “Current State” of reentry in Summit County, current recidivism rates, how we’ve improved, and what works for the future.

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