Ideas on Engaging the Faith-based Community to Help Those Experiencing Reentry and Recovery

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Take the time to educate the congregation, as well as the community, about the challenges faced by those returning from recovery or incarceration.

  1. Provide mentors to help individuals navigate through their return and finding resources.
  2. Provide support groups like A.A., N.A., only designed specifically for those that may have criminal records. 
  3. Have congregations collect both new and gently used backpacks and fill them with items you would need immediately upon release from recovery or incarceration, i.e. hygiene products, shelf stable food, coins, pencil and paper, stamps, etc.
  4. Collect dress clothing for individuals for job interviews.
  5. Find members of congregations that may be able to help with resumes, mock job interviews or even available job openings. Start a “Job Club for Felons”
  6. Support the children in any way possible. Oftentimes, substance use disorder (SUD) and incarceration leave damaged children behind with few resources. Find ways to reach out and support these children so they don’t repeat the cycle.
  7. Provide support for Foster Families through resources, emotional support, meals, transportation, support groups, respite care, etc.
  8. Support Grandparents As Parents (GAP) and Relatives As Parents (RAP) with the same resources you would if they were foster parents.
  9. Provide for emergency needs such as clothing, toiletries, cleaning supplies, or other items not covered by other social service agencies.
  10. Offer a night you might provide community meals, open food pantries, deliver food to homes for those that have no transportation to the church.
  11. Go door to door in those high-risk communities and see what you might be able to do to help.  Don’t invite them to church, invite them into a conversation or relationship. If they are hungry and without hope, meet them where they are at, and that is not necessarily ready to hear about your church.
  12. Provide tutoring programs for the kids that are struggling because their parents are living with an SUD or are incarcerated. Also tutor those trying to improve their life by going back to school.
  13. Volunteer at a hospital that has a neonatal unit serving the children born to those with substance use disorders. They have a whole set of unmet needs.
  14. Help families maintain ties with their loved ones that are incarcerated by providing transportation to facilities.
  15. Develop a list of resources in your local area —where to go for food, shelter, medical issues, mental health counselling, recovery groups, or hotlines. Type them on a card and hand them out to people that might need them. (Click here to read a story about a similar ministry in Clarksburg, West Virginia, offering a list of resources for those struggling with substance use disorder.)
  16. Advocate for policy change in your community at the local, or even county and state level.  We need less incarceration and more opportunities for alternative sentencing, drug courts, etc.
  17. Provide support for participants of the alternative programs such as providing childcare while they go to counseling or seeing their probation officer, or other required appointments.
  18. Volunteer your church vans and drivers to transport participants of recovery or support groups or to work or other necessary appointments.
  19. Sponsor fund-raising activities for programs for either families, children or those returning to the community from recovery or incarceration.
  20. Offer your church facility for use as a training space for groups interested in providing or receiving training around SUD, collateral consequences to a felony conviction, family support, etc.
  21. Provide gift cards, furniture, household items, etc., for those going from homeless to housed.
  22. Teach a “life skills” program.
  23. Host sober living activities such as yoga, game night, movie night, etc.
  24. Help individuals obtain their driver’s license, social security card and birth certificate. This is a huge barrier to successful reentry to the community.
  25. Offer use of available computers for job searching, locating resources, finding relatives, connecting to help
  26. Provide training on “stigma” reduction.
  27. Provide a training session on Screening, Brief Intervention, Referral and Treatment (SBIRT) for members of your leadership team  
  28. Provide Naloxone (Narcan) training to members of the congregation 
  29. Provide safe places to deposit used needles.
  30. Sponsor a prescription drug “take-back” event with local law enforcement.
  31. Utilize your church to hold funerals for loved ones lost to overdose or drug-related deaths who have no church families.
  32. Collect and loan out tools such as landscaping equipment, basic construction tools, etc., so individuals can be self-employed.
  33. Teach basic entrepreneurial skills such as grass-cutting, weed-eating, mulching, drywalling, framing, etc., while providing these services free to the elderly or low-income members of your community who could use help.
  34. Create, host, join or otherwise participate in any available councils, coalitions, gatherings, etc., that will help you build a better community.
  35. Provide housing (have a spare bedroom, a rental house or apartment, empty parsonage, church annex)
  36. Never stop adding to this list as there are always opportunities presented to us where we can help!

Beverly Sharp
Executive Director, The REACH Initiative and Director of Reentry Initiatives
West Virginia Council of Churches

[email protected]

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