For four years, the Social Justice Committee was the host of a unique program called Coming Home.
The Coming Home Program is a life skills empowerment program for the previously incarcerated. It was hosted by Social Justice Committee in collaboration with The Beck Institute on Religion and Poverty, and the Fordham Graduate School of Social Service.
Coming Home seeks to empower men and women who are returning to the community from incarceration. Based on a well-established model with a track record of success, participants work with facilitators and mentors to support personal healing and growth, skill development, and reintegration into the community.
The program works to restore social justice by fostering communal accountability and care of all persons. Congregational involvement is encouraged by providing opportunities for awareness, education, community welcoming and celebration, and includes volunteer opportunities such as mentoring, meal preparation and community outreach.
The program consists of weekly sessions with the post-incarcerated participants, mentors and facilitators. Each session begins with a group meal, followed by a session on life skills, the sharing of personal stories in the context of a supportive group process, and one-to-one mentoring. Mentors work with participants to establish and implement personal goals.
Over the course of the program, a family-like community is formed through the creation of an environment based on safety, trust, compassion, and forgiveness.
Hosting the Coming Home Program for four years was a valuable learning experience for the congregation, a community-building experience for the many congregations and individuals that took part, as well as a life-enhancing experience for the participants. We feel privileged to have been able to make this contribution, thanks to grants from the Unitarian Universalist Association, the New York State Convention of Universalists, the Jeannette F. Schlobach Fund of the Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley; and donations from many community members.