Each Christmas season has familiar traditions which we all can identify. For me one of the best has always been Cookies for Max! The tradition began inside the walls of the Idaho Maximum Security Institution (IMSI) where cookies from all over the Treasure Valley were gathered and distributed by religious volunteers a few days before Christmas. Those who live inside Max for the most part are restricted to their cells 23 hours a day for seven days a week.
People who have heard me speak know I always address the need to form partnerships with those who can speak to the needs of the folks returning to our communities from incarceration. One strong group should be those who face the challenge of addiction in the past or current. Several of us had the chance to connect with 35 other states in Las Vegas a few days ago. As usual Idaho lags behind the efforts of other states.
Certainly, those who know me or listen to me at meetings, in person or sometimes on the radio that one of the themes that I share is the need to build coalitions. We have been trying to do that for over six years in the Treasure Valley. I do believe we are making progress. An event happened on July 29th that addresses the issue of importance for this effort to be statewide.
As we drift toward a new normal (post COVID) what will the Summer bring for the folks who work with the community we call Returning Citizens? Frankly, it is exciting! Hope you are ready because Idaho needs your voice! Several groups are emerging to share the message. Congrats to them. I know it is hard work and difficult to become credible. Look at a group called Idaho Recovery Advocacy Project lead by Chris Mecham.
Open House This Month I have long been an advocate for the need to work through coalitions to support returning citizens in their path to community. Early this month we had an event where it was apparent we are on the correct path. On Friday April 30th and May 3rd St. Vincent de Paul Southwest Idaho hosted an open house to let all see their new offices on Fairview. Note that our lead agency to the public in the Treasure Valley here in Idaho has developed to be St.
I will be honest: It could be because we just moved. We also divided our staff into two groups which is new too. In addition, I am just getting over an assault on my body by the COVID virus with some interesting complications. Somehow these events allow me to see the need to work in a more positive light with all groups who served returning citizens. When life stresses happen (major illness & separation from workers in my case) it can be a time to reflect and assess the direction you have been going for a long period of time.
Two Reentry Locations? St Vincent de Paul Southwest Idaho has split the staff who meet and work with those just released. Why? The main location at 3217 W Overland Rd will see individuals in the first days of release. Good news here: we are now able to link to food from the St Vincent de Paul Southwest Idaho food pantry on the same site (not available before). Now at this location: support for clothing, hygiene kits for day one, food immediately and links to the other valuable resources we have always provided.
Exciting News! We have outgrown our current office setting! We decided to work closely with our coalition partners and make a change. It seems St. Vincent de Paul Southwest Idaho was in a similar situation. The result is our First Day Out Services will be moving to 3217 W Overland Rd on February 11th. Only those seeking assistance in the first days of their release will be seen here. We will continue to write vouchers for clothing, link them to resources, supply hygiene packets, and support them with personnel who have for the most part lived this experience.
Rarely are we asked that question, but the answer is vital to the ministry work of our office. First, understand that we pick up individuals from all institutions south of Gowen Field almost daily. Some are early morning pickups going to the Greyhound connection at Flying J on Federal Way in Boise (departures north between 7am & 7:45 daily). Others going West are departures from the Airport via Salt Lake Express which leaves at 8:15am.
We are looking forward to the new year and opportunities for those of us who are returning to home and community from incarceration. When we say “we” it refers to a coalition of strength in support from groups like St Vincent de Paul SW Idaho, Recovery Idaho, Just Leadership USA and Serving USA. These groups add to the long list of church sponsorship which makes the work we do possible. Just a few of those churches are Common Ground Biker Church, Vertical Church, Cloverdale Church of God.