When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, All In Community shifted grant funding to support churches providing direct assistance to men and women returning from prison. One grant recipient, Stonybrook UMC, recently welcomed home the first beneficiary of their COVID-19 Pandemic Response Grant.
In collaboration with Kindway and New Albany UMC, recent Kindway EMBARK alumni, Lori W., moved into her new home on July 12. This wasn’t any routine residential transition either. Lori had spent 33 years living at Ohio Reformatory for Women until she was released to transitional housing in Columbus. Now with members from three supportive communities, Lori not only is walking into a new life; she is celebrating a new year of life. Just one day after moving into her own apartment, Lori and friends celebrated her birthday and the wonderful gift of living freely and independently on the outside.
Stonybrook’s grant helped pay for Lori’s apartment deposit, and the two UMC churches furnished many essential household items through congregational donations. “Everything we asked for and more was given by the members of New Albany and Stonybrook churches,” reports Stonybrook’s Prison Ministry Chair Thomas Hofmann.
As a long-time Kindway board member, Tom knows the challenges facing returning neighbors even before the pandemic. “Persons returning from prison to the community often live in transitional housing several months until they get established in the community with basic needs, services, employment and transportation. If they do find work, it often does not pay sufficiently for returning citizens to live on and save enough for the costs of moving out on their own,” he said.
“When the time comes to find their own apartment, it is challenging for those with a criminal record to find landlords who will rent to them. It is also a challenge for those moving into independence to begin utility services and outfit their homes with furniture and housewares.”
Knowing the challenges facing returning neighbors in ideal conditions is why Stonybrook UMC sought an All In Community COVID-19 Pandemic Response Grant. They wanted the extra capacity to do more during this uncertain season. In coordination with Kindway, Tom and other Stonybrook UMC members will be locating second chance landlord partners and providing case management to eliminate the barriers that people like Lori face when moving from transitional housing into independence.
In addition, Stonybrook UMC and New Albany UMC will continue to contribute resources that are necessary for their next Kindway graduate to establish independence. “This project through our prison ministry team will assist in flattening the curve of the impact of COVID-19 by moving individuals from communal living to independent housing,” Tom stated.
All In Community COVID-19 Pandemic Response Grants are still available. You can find out more details here.