Welcome Home Women

Testimonial Details

Donna Cleveland Welcome Home Ministries/ FAIR Dorm

Donna Cleveland

Welcome Home Ministries/ FAIR Dorm

The Community of Care in Reentry Posted by CMCA on May 25, 2012 in Collaboration, Journal, Missio Dei Articles, Missio Dei Corrections Vol. 1, No 2, Online Journal,

Reentry Ministry, Religion in Prisons, Returning Citizens, Women Comments Off The Community of Care in Reentry by Donna Cleveland, Welcome Home Ministries Re-entry Specialist and Program Director for Future Achievers in Re-Entry (FAiR).

I believe God’s purpose for me is to use my trials and survival through 23 years of addiction to drugs, living in darkness, homelessness and hopelessness, to be an example for those struggling to find life. To do this, I developed the first of its kind peer-led housing unit known as Future Achievers in Reentry (FAiR) within the San Diego County Las Colinas Women’s Detention Facility. There women are invited into a “community of care” made up of like-minded women, thirsting for change and longing to learn, grow and be made whole again through the power of God ministered in community.

INTRODUCTION:

My name is Donna Cleveland and I am the Welcome Home Ministries Re-entry Specialist and Program Director for Future Achievers in Reentry (FAiR) in the Las Colinas Detention Facility, San Diego, California. My compassion and gift for female offenders is a direct result of a life-changing event that happened in 1996 when I met with the jail chaplain, Reverend Carmen Warner-Robbins. Carmen came to me, not because of anything I did, but because she was obedient to God’s calling that particular day. I had been through the darkest of times, and had become hopeless for anything except death. Carmen encouraged me as I began my first steps toward Christianity and servant hood.

MY JOURNEY:

THE FIRST STEPS I believe God’s purpose for me is to use my trials and survival through 23 years of addiction to drugs, living in darkness, homelessness and hopelessness, to be an example for those who are destitute and struggling to find life. I found my calling and pursued an education in drug counseling, becoming a Registered Addiction Specialist. I went on to gain a Bachelor of Science Degree in Human Services, and in April of 2012 I will receive my Master’s Degree. My motivation has a two-fold purpose: first, it is important to me to know and believe that I am a capable, intelligent woman. My personal transformation has allowed me to believe without question that I am a person with a healthy respect and pride in who I have become. Secondly, it is important for me to make a clear statement to the community about who I am, and to be able to take my place within the community as a productive, professional person. I need to show that I am ready and able to assume all of the rights, responsibilities and recognition due me. With this new-found stature and presence, I have designed and developed the first of its kind peer-led, “Community of Care” housing unit within the San Diego County Las Colinas Women’s Detention Facility. I presented my concept to the Sheriff and his immediate staff, explaining the what (to help women successfully return to the community), the where (in the jail at no extra cost to taxpayers), and the how (with peers who have walked in their same shoes and have become successful).

MY DREAM COME ALIVE:

The FAiR dorm is a 64 bed dormitory-style unit using bunk beds, with a common area devoted to daily living. The unit is set apart from the other housing units, making it less vulnerable to negative influences from adjoining dorms. There is a chapel/classroom and a prayer garden to be used for holding groups, gatherings, and special celebrations for the women in FAiR. Having this intimacy is crucial for learning, and the environment is conducive for the peaceful restoration of their fractured lives and therapeutic healing. Many of the women from the other dorms are curious, and word of mouth is the only advertising needed for recruiting new peers. The women are invited into the new community of like-minded women, thirsting for change and longing to learn, grow and be made whole again.

The program is strictly voluntary, but there is a process each woman must adhere to in order to be accepted into the FAiR dorm.

•Women are selected through a face to face interview, stressing their intent and desire to change.

•Women are involved in morning and noon classes, using Gender Responsive Therapy and Helping Women Recover curriculum (S. Covington) (Tuesday/Thursday).

•Women attend the Wednesday program: A Woman’s Way Through the Twelve-Steps (S. Covington).

•Women participate in life skills training (health seminars, relapse prevention, conflict resolution groups, etc.) (Monday)

•Women are part of a daily noon gathering where the FAiR Philosophy, the 10 New Attitudes and concluding devotions are read and where celebrations, as well as good-byes are included.

•Women are assessed for re-entry needs, and placement is secured in community treatment programs.

•Women are picked-up from the jail and transported to a celebration breakfast, probation and a treatment program (crucial in successful re-entry)

•Women are connected with follow-up mentors who are primarily peers.

This is essential in helping the women deal with their struggles, and rejoice in their celebrations. It is the bonds established in the jail, and the continued care at release that prevents old friends, places and things from destroying the progress made.

Some of the areas we worked on with the ladies in the FAiR dorm include:

Self-awareness …the goal is to help women begin to recognize that they are not the sum total of what they have done, but rather to look forward, to develop a healthy self image, to respect themselves, and to build respectful relationships with others.

Healthy relationships …the goal is to help the women understand the differences between healthy and unhealthy relationships.

Reflection in groups helps them see how their childhood and adult relationships might have led to a life of addiction. We also begin to further the process of developing respectful relationships with one another.

Relapse prevention…the goal is to support the women as they begin to notice the triggers they have taken for granted in the past and acknowledge the need to use cognitive behavioral tools to overcome even the slightest trigger, thus avoiding potential relapse.

CONCLUSION:

This idea has been conceived and ordained by our Lord, and with His blessing, this model will spread nation-wide, reaching out to thousands already being prepared to receive His healing grace.