By Charley Davis
The Foundation of Hope Aftercare program, an interfaith, non-profit located at 112 W. North Ave., is broadening its services for ex-offenders to include limited residential housing. And recently it has begun providing access to its weekly support groups at a number of state correctional institutions via video conferencing.
Jody Raeford, executive director of the Foundation, says that plans are underway to establish a men’s residential facility to provide a stable and safe living environment where newly released inmates can focus on reintegrating successfully into the community.
Discussions have begun with a major Hill District church to convert its rectory into a residence for men after release. The facility will supplement services the Aftercare program already provides, such as guidance to both men and women regarding job searches, education, clothing, and mental health counseling.
“The best way to empower and support ex-offenders is to establish them in the community and to encourage them to contribute personally to it,” Raeford says. “That builds self-esteem and a sense of purpose. Both are essential to getting back on track.”
An on-site manager appointed by the Foundation will run the house, not only to ensure that residents comply with rules and regulations, but also to help them get their bearings in the world.
“Life happens round the clock,” says Raeford. “Sometimes people need help figuring out the bus schedule so they can get to a job interview, or how to find local volunteer opportunities to get involved in the neighborhood. It’s small stuff, but it’s important. And we want to provide all the support we can.
Residents can take advantage of Hope Aftercare’s weekly support group, which employs the Positive Initiative to Reinforce Change movement (PIRC). Each member is encouraged to view him- or herself as a corporation and to ask, “What is my corporate identity and character? What are my corporate goals? How can I invest in myself?”
PIRC holds on-site meetings on the North Side, but it is now also offered by video conference at the state correctional Institutions in Pittsburgh, Pine Grove, Laurel Highlands, and Greene. The program will expand to more locations in the coming months.
To help it expand generally, the Aftercare program does receive some grant money, but it relies heavily on private donations, and on the help of volunteers from the community. Volunteer services range from stuffing envelopes in the office to visiting inmates at the jail. The program has recorded more than 5,500 volunteer service hours through March of this year.
That type of community support is a vital part of the program’s model. To contact Foundation of Hope, call (412) 32.3343 or visitwww.foundationofhope.org.