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The Voice of the Black Community

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Support group opens home for former inmates
Services include housing, counseling, job readiness and training
 
Published Wednesday, January 17, 2018
by Freda Freeman, Correspondent

DURHAM – The Straight Talk Support Group and Resource Center opened its doors wider Monday. Wider to more services, to expanded programs and to greater support with the opening of its transitional housing.

The center’s Transitional House at 1101 N. Mangum St., formerly the Troy House, provides temporary residency for men recently released from prison. The house is funded by donations and grants.

The halfway home, which can accommodate up to 16 residents, has five bedrooms and three bathrooms. There is a kitchen area where the residents can fix breakfast or lunch. Because the house is designated a historic building, it cannot be renovated to include a full commercial kitchen. There’s an extra room to one day be a computer lab.

Residents can stay at the home for 90 days – in most cases – as long as they are undergoing treatment or working. To help them reach their goals, the program’s reentry plan provides classes in mental health, anger management, money management, entrepreneurship, resume writing, job readiness and parenting, said Bessie Elmore, who runs the home with a staff of five.

On hand for Monday’s open house and preview tour were family members of incarcerated men, volunteers, board members and supporters. Also in attendance were representatives of other nonprofit organizations, including Our Children’s Place, which supports children of incarcerated parents; Community Success Initiative, which helps men and women transitioning from prison and jail; All of Us or None, a grassroots organization that fights for the rights of incarcerated people and their families; and Haven House, which works with at-risk youth and their families.

Elmore knows firsthand what it feels like to have to pick up the broken pieces after your life has been shattered. Her son, William, moved to North Carolina from New Jersey over 20 years ago to attend college, but, instead of going to college, he ended up spending 25 years in prison.

Elmore and her daughter moved to North Carolina to be near her son and to provide him with support while he was in prison. Believing an inmate’s reentry to society begins when he’s first imprisoned, Elmore took her son books and information to prepare him for release because she “never, ever, ever thought he wouldn’t be home.” He, in turn, shared the information with other inmates, and soon their families were contacting Elmore for advice.

William Elmore’s lawyer was able to enroll him in the Mutual Agreement Parole Program (MAPP), which is designed to prepare inmates for release and reentry into society, and he was released early. He’s been out for two years and now works with at-risk youth.

William Elmore said being in prison is a daily battle, and it’s another battle when you get out. Without a support system, many ex-offenders feel defeated and end up back in prison, he said.

Using her son as her model, Elmore started the support group in March 2013 to help provide support for former inmates and their families.

“What I found doing the support group is we were becoming more of a resource center,” Elmore said. “I said, OK, we need to do something else other than offering the support group and doing remediation with the offender and his family, so the house is the culmination of all of that.”

Through the support group, resource center and now housing, Elmore hopes to provide 360-degree service. Elmore said what makes Straight Talk different from other programs that provide transitional housing is that her program includes the residents’ families.

“Having that family support is so needed because the family has to understand what the ex-offender, the returning citizen needs, and the returning citizen needs to understand what the family has gone through while he was away,” she said. “Bridging that gap and creating a strong foundation is of the utmost importance so that person will not return to prison, and some of those issues that they had before they went in are now resolved, and they’re building on a stronger relationship.”

George Wilson, a member of Straight Talk’s board of directors, agreed the goal of the program is to reduce the recidivism rate of men returning to prison.

“Returning citizens can’t just come out of jail and go back to the community,” he said. “They can’t get a job, and very often they can’t go back home. They have problems finding employment, housing and mental health services. This helps them get on their feet so they don’t go back to jail.”

Everybody deserves a second chance, Elmore said, and that means teaching them survival skills and providing them with tools they can use to rebuild their lives. That’s the hope of the families who are awaiting the release of their sons, brothers and nephews.

 

Comments

Excellent article! Am sending Ron my sister, niece and cousin who are Chiefs of Probation and Parole in VA. I have had many conversations with them about the re-entry programs. There is definitely need for more programs such as the one depicted in your article!
Posted on February 9, 2018
 

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