Creating successful second chances for justice-involved individuals returning to the community requires the input and assistance of the community members. That is why community engagement is an essential ingredient in Dismas House of St. Louis’ strategy.
Dismas House engages the community through a community relations board (CRB), a networking group and a volunteer program. These three varied outreach initiatives are designed to enhance relationships with Dismas House and the local metropolitan area at large.
Community Relations Board (CRB)
The Dismas House CRB is composed of community partners who wish to engage and collaborate on improving the organization and the community. The CRB meets at least each quarter, providing an open forum where community partners provide feedback and ideas to improve Dismas House residential reentry services. The CRB seeks to ensure open communication, collect information, address concerns and make Dismas House more proactive in responding to community issues.
Partnerships are the guiding principle of the CRB, which is open to members of government, law enforcement, local corrections officials and previous graduates of the Dismas House program. Dismas House also extends an open invitation for neighborhood associations to be involved in the CRB.
The CRB also acts as a liaison between the residential reentry center, Dismas House, and the community by sharing information about needs, policies and status. Such communication between Dismas and the CRB helps build and strengthen relations between Dismas House and the community.
The CRB helps with referring and soliciting volunteers to augment the program. Dismas House community partners create programs that will benefit the community and help fulfill Dismas House’s mission. This residential reentry center also offers college and university students a variety of opportunities to apply their classroom learning in a real-life setting. These opportunities exist for students from a variety of curricula including social services, case management and assessment.
The Dismas House networking group is made up of employers and social service organization personnel working together to support mutual efforts in community engagement in addition to educating the community about the goals and mission of Dismas House. The networking group provides avenues to assist their clients with social and economic needs. The networking group members help with housing information, medical needs, banking assistance and other issues that help Dismas House prepare its clients in becoming responsible and contributing members of society.
“The goal is to develop these partnerships to help us make a positive impact on our program participants’ lives,” said Tara Barrett, Dismas House’s communications director.
Dismas House’s community interactions through the CRB, volunteer program and the networking group are invaluable tools to help support its clients in a meaningful way by promoting knowledge expansion, business development and peer interactions. With the use of strategic community involvement, the RRC has been helping shape the lives of justice-involved individuals returning to their friends and loved ones since 1959.
To learn more about Dismas House’s community engagement initiatives, visit dismashouse.net.
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