Re-entry Success Designed by Women for Women
“Never change things by fighting the existing reality… to change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
R. Buckminster Fuller - Engineer - Architect - Futurist
Every year nearly 4,000 women are released from Missouri State prisons. Each needs a home plan in order to do so. Journey and Peace Houses are “new models” of re-entry shelters that house approximately 20 women on a rotating basis. They are the vision of founders Georgia Walker and Sister Rose McLarney and operate under the umbrella organization Journey to New Life.
The national average rate of women re-offending and returning to prison is a bleak 60%. The rate for Journey and Peace House graduates is around 6 percent.
In the words of the founders, here is why…
We find the good in these ladies and we don’t let up until they find it too.
We live together as a family in a home atmosphere of unconditional love, dignity, respect and honesty. There are no uniformed guards, security cameras or round-the-clock surveillance.
Our care is trauma and gender informed. Most of our women have nowhere else to turn. They have been institutionalized by the rigidity of prison life. We keep up a constant interaction which includes such seemingly simple skills as saying “thank you,” following through, complimenting, listening, expressing kindness, helping out, and being on time.
We coach housemates to join mainstream society. This includes using the bus, cell phone and computer, filling out job applications, meeting parole requirements, keeping on task, etc.
All women receive a “Well Woman” medical exam, mental health assessment and intervention, dental and eye care, and substance use disorder assessment and treatment.
In every way possible, we support our women who are willing and able to reconnect with children and family.
Journey and Peace House women “give back” in volunteer service and interaction within the community. Not only are we telling them, “We want you here,” but members of the community are saying, “We want you back!” Residents are overwhelmed by the unmerited kindness, generosity and compassion shown to them. For many it is a first-time-ever experience, a potent antidote to feelings of shame and unworthiness. Emotional growth and wellness are expressed by their willingness to speak out, often for the first time, and share their stories for this project.
During their initial ninety-day, in-house stay, they work with case managers on job-readiness and permanent housing. In after-care we pay three months of rent and utility deposits for their apartments, cell phones and transportation. We continue to provide six months to a year of case management as needed.
Many graduates attain advanced education as Peer Support Specialists and become Journey and Peace House managers. We seek these qualities in our staff: gentle disposition, solid experience of their own recovery, finely-tuned emotional muscle and intuition, and an ability to build another’s strengths.
A promising force are the millennials and youth volunteers who believe our approach is clearly the right thing to do for human beings.