The shelter system and the prison system

A really fine article by Pat Schneider on the direct line from the prison system to the homeless shelter.

Linda Ketcham, executive director of Madison-area Urban Ministry, a nonprofit agency that assists criminal offenders returning to the community, estimates that 75 to 80 percent of people her agency assists in its offender “re-entry” programs are homeless. “The shelter system is the only option“ for many of them, she said.

I’ve blogged about this before here. I can confirm several points in the article. I know that guys come straight from the parole office to the shelter. I know that sex offenders that are released to their own communities come to Madison because there’s no place for them back home.
I remember several years ago a young man, a teenager, brought by corrections officials to the shelter from whatever prison he’d been in elsewhere in the state. His parents came down too. They wanted to know about the shelter, how he would fare, what would happen to him. For whatever reason, he wasn’t released to them. What I remember most about him was the look of fear on his face. Whatever he’d faced in prison was nothing like the uncertainty he was facing now. I have no idea what happened to him.
His reaction is quite common among those I’ve talked to who have just been released from prison. They’re facing incredible odds in their efforts to put their lives back together. In addition to all the social services they need, they also need a support system to help them, to encourage them, and to offer a helping hand when they make mistakes. Instead, they come to the shelter where they’re anonymous, where they’re surrounded by people who may or may not want to help them, and where access to the services they need is a maze in a city they probably don’t know.
The re-entry program run by MUM mentioned in the article does amazing things.
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