Manna, a Durango soup kitchen, is launching a new program to help Durangoans who have been incarcerated reconnect with their community.
After being discharged from prison, people often face challenges re-entering daily life, like finding housing and jobs. Manna is hoping to offer them the resources they need to successfully navigate that transition with the help of a $210,000 grant.
“We help a lot of people in need throughout the community, and we already see people on parole or who have experienced time in jail,” said Ann Morse, Manna’s executive director. “We understand that there is a huge barrier to re-entry. By having this funding and resources, we can help more people.”
The grant, funded by the Colorado Department of Corrections, will fund a community-based program called Work and Gain Education & Employment Skills, or WAGEES. The grant is administered by the Latino Coalition for Community Leadership.
Manna is the first organization in La Plata County to receive grant funding for the WAGEES program, Morse said.
The WAGEES program improves the employment prospects for eligible people who are still inmates, discharged from prison or on parole. It is intended to help those who face a medium to high risk for recidivism successfully navigate life in their communities.
The program offers employment preparation and placement, work clothing, mentoring, transportation assistance, housing assistance, therapy and other resources.
In September 2020, 110 people in La Plata County were on parole supervision, which means there are plenty of people to help, Morse said.
At Manna, the grant will fund a new case manager position to help 56 participants access the resources starting in September. The specialist provides case management for the participants to help them reach their goals, whether it is something transportation-related, housing or jobs.
Participants will be connected with the program through the parole office in La Plata County.
It also fits into the nonprofit’s efforts to build a resource navigation center as part of the city of Durango and La Plata County strategic plan on homelessness, she said.
“We’re really excited, especially with coming into the resource center,” Morse said. “The whole point of the resource/navigation center is to help people who are in need.”
By putting an easy-access safety net in place, Morse hopes to help people before they experience housing instability or homelessness, or face “greater tragedy.”
“It’s getting that safety net in place to help people take their next steps, which helps the community be stronger in the long run,” Morse said.