Operators of a newly opened Reentry Welcome Center
in Wooster Square are calling on the community to join them in the quest to help formerly incarcerated New Haveners get back on their feet. The one-stop-drop-off site will be a resource center to bring together human services professionals and ex-offenders immediately after their release. (Eric Daigle, VP of People + Culture for LAZ Parking pictured on left).
City leaders and partners cut the ribbon for the official opening of the center on Thursday. The Center will be housed out of the Project M.O.R.E
space at 830 Grand Ave. Project M.O.R.E will oversee the operation in addition to continuing providing the services they have offered ex-offenders for 47 years.
Reentry Welcome Center Director Keisha Gatison said services will include housing and employment help, food resources, treatment for substance use disorders, mental health and medical treatment, and job placement.
The center is looking for more organization partnerships, community volunteers, and employers to help. Volunteers will be needed to offer educational services and trade skills to clients. “If the community’s talents are brought to help our clients we’ll be that much better,” Gatison said. Project Fresh Start
Director Carlos Sosa-Lombardo began developing the initiative in 2018 after visiting Hartford’s Reentry Welcome Center
. The center will be of service to residents post-incarceration and those previously involved in the justice system, including those on pre-trial release or on probation or parole.
About 900 people are released from incarceration annually into New Haven, Mayor Justin Elicker
said at the Thursday celebration. “Over 10 years that’s almost 7 percent of our population that are returning citizens.”
On an appointment basis, peer mentors will welcome home the clients on the same day or soon after they are released. Prior to release, the state Department of Corrections (DOC)
will send the center an assessment of each individual’s service needs.
The DOC is working on changing its drop-off policy to include the center’s location by the end of the month, said DOC District Administrator Eulalia Garcia
. Clients will be provided with a backpack with basic needs and a re-entry resource guide. The center will refer and assist with IDs, housing, SNAP (food stamps), transportation, transition clinics and pharmacy set-up.
The recidivism rate is high in New Haven said Elicker. “It’s in all of our interest to do this,” Elicker said. “It also reflects our values that we strive to underscore the importance of making sure that those individuals returning who in my view were never served right in the beginning. We as a society bear the responsibility to make sure that when they return they can be successful,” he said.
Sosa-Lombardo received a planning grant from the Tow Foundation
to host an eight-month pilot program for 47 recently released clients. The pilot proved that connecting people to services the day of their release can reduce recidivism, he said. Of the 47 participants, only one was re-arrested, and that person did not return to prison, said Sosa-Lombardo.
The center will remain available to those who don’t immediately opt to be dropped off at the center.
“Do we want to be a community that’s focused on blame and scapegoating? Or do we want to be a compassionate community that understands, acknowledges and does not deny personal and collective history that may have led individuals to this point?” city Community Services Administrator Mehul Dalal
Wooster Square Alder Ellen Cupo welcomed the center to the neighborhood. Cupo supported Sosa-Lombardo’s efforts since 2018. “This community is ready to be called on. Your success is our success,” Cupo said.
The center partnered with LAZ Parking to provide several hundred employment opportunities to its clients.
The Fair Haven Community Health Center
will provide COVID-19 testing, addiction services, and other health services to clients. Read the full article here >>