Homes mean hope for many formerly incarcerated men and women.
The need for stable housing is always a priority for anyone recently released from prison, including those from Flint and Genesee County.
Flint’s MADE Institute has expanded its mission to support returning citizens through job training, education and mentoring to include providing a safe place for them to lay their heads. After a year of operating its first men’s transitional home, located on Parkway Avenue in North Flint, MADE plans to open its first women’s transitional house by the end of April.
“We’re going to use the same concept we did with the first one,” says Leon El-Alamin, founder of MADE.
Four private rooms individually occupied by returning citizens will be opened to women at an address two houses away from the men’s location.
“We really want to create a safe environment, not what other housing facilities do when they have two and three people in one room, making you feel like you’re still incarcerated,” El-Alamin says.
As in the men’s housing program, women at the MADE house will receive mentoring and professional training, such as the male participants who received certification in home lead abatement last year. While residence isn’t required to receive MADE’s support services, homes help those in need focus more of their attention on personal advancement without the added challenge of seeking shelter.
“We want to make it comfortable, as much as possible as we provide this service, to help them be stable and assist them in getting back on their feet,” El-Alamin adds.
Both the men’s and women’s houses are designed to provide “wrap-around services” that include access to personal care items. An addition for the women’s home will be group, family, and individual therapy, services not yet available to the men living on site, but soon to be included for them.
Therapy and mental health counseling, or support for issues like substance abuse are not sufficiently provided during imprisonment, El-Alamin says. In fact, even community residents at greater risk of incarceration because they live in high-crime, impoverished areas, like those MADE helps serve, are candidates for therapy, he adds.“That’s very important, especially working with the women in this population who I believe have it a little harder than men, because women tend to drive the household,” says El-Alamin.
“The stress of living in a high-crime, high-violence environment, especially in the midst of the water crisis,” can be factors that influence mental health and sometimes contribute to illegal activity, says El-Alamin.
Long-term effects of lead exposure, such as through the water in many Flint homes during the city’s recent emergency, have included irritability and lack of concentration.
Research in Michigan and elsewhere has shown most prisons as under-equipped to provide adequate mental health services, because their primary function is to enforce criminal sentences.
“It hasn’t ever really been adequately addressed,” says El-Alamin. “You want someone with a stable mind, in order to help them get themselves together.”
MADE’s therapy for the women residents will take place both on-site and off-site for larger, group sessions.
MADE’s ultimate vision is a total of 20 combined units in a campus serving both returning citizens and homeless military veterans, who often face post-traumatic stress disorder and other conditions common to ex-offenders.
Funding and partnerships through the Ruth Mott Foundation, Genesee Health Plan, Community Foundation of Greater Flint, Michigan Rehabilitation Services, and Offender Success, a program of Catholic Charities, helps MADE continue expanding, El-Alamin says. Strong organization, including active board members who support the public message spread mainly by El-Alamin and Program Manager Tim Abdul-Matin are also assets, the founder adds.
“I would attribute our success to the awesome team we’ve put together here at MADE Institute,” he says.
Editor’s Note: To learn more about MADE Institute visit madeinstitute.org
Lead photo by Tim Galloway