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Riverside Coming Home

from The Riverside Church, New York, NY

Riverside Coming Home is a program of the Prison Ministry of The Riverside Church of New York, in collaboration with Xavier Mission, The Beck Institute on Religion and Poverty, and the Fordham Graduate School of Social Service.

Riverside Coming Home seeks to empower men and women who are returning to the community from incarceration. It is based on a well-established model with a track record of success and over a thousand graduates in the New York Metropolitan area in the past two decades. Participants work with facilitators and mentors to support personal healing and growth, skill development, and reintegration into the community.

Program Origins
The Interfaith Assembly on Homelessness and Housing held its first Interfaith Convocation and Overnight City Budget Vigil in 1985 to call for action from the City of New York to address homelessness and the housing crisis. Annual overnight convocations became a focus for the group. In 1989, the overnight event became a 200-day encampment in City Hall Park. The personal testimonies of those who led the encampment were powerful and compelling. Inspired by these stories, and in partnership with Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, the Assembly developed the Education Outreach Program that grew into what are now known as Life Skills Empowerment Programs (LSEP). Riverside Coming Home is based on the Educational Outreach and Life Skills Empowerment Programs model. The program was started at Riverside Church in Fall 2012.

Overview
Participants engage in twice-weekly evening meetings over the course of 13 weeks. Each session begins with a group meal, followed by a session on life skills, the sharing of personal stories in the context of a supportive group process, and one-to-one mentoring. Mentors work with participants to establish and implement personal and career goals. The program is limited to approximately 12 participants per semester. Over the course of the semester a family-like community is formed through the creation of an environment based on trust, support and respect.

Primary Components

  • Life Skills/Community Building Sessions: Co-facilitators lead each session. Some sessions include invited expert speakers. Sessions focus on important topics including Goal Setting, Breaking the Cycle, Developing Healthy Relationships, Employment, and Housing.
  • Goal Setting with Mentors: Each participant works one-on-one with a trained mentor to develop short and long-term goals and to take action towards meeting those goals.
  • Personal Stories: Participants are guided in integrating their life experiences from past to present to future, through developing and telling their own stories.
  • Support Services: A social work intern from the Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service works with participants to provide guidance and support throughout the Coming Home process.
  • Welcoming and Celebration: Congregation members welcome participants by providing food and sharing in meals. Members also celebrate with participants through joining in the Graduation ceremony at the end of the program.
  • Respect for Commitment: A round-trip MetroCard and $10 stipend are provided to participants for each session attended. Participants are required to bank half of their stipend until graduation from the program.
  • Alumni Events: Following graduation from the program, monthly meetings of the Riverside Coming Home Alumni Association continue the personal healing and growth and maintain the positive support system created throughout the Coming Home process.

For additional information, please contact Hope Eisdorfer, Program Director at 212-870-6876 or heisdorfer@theriversidechurchny.org.


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