Mercy Corps Northwest – LIFE, RTC, ROAR

Locations: Portland, Oregon

History:

“Mercy Corps Northwest (MCNW) is the domestic economic development arm of Mercy Corps….MCNW developed a range of reentry programs and services starting in 2007 with the goal of promoting a healthier, more productive and economically secure community.”

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Purpose:

“MCNW’s mission is to alleviate suffering, poverty, and oppression by helping people build secure, productive and just communities. MCNW strives to support low-income renters, refugees, incarcerated individuals, and small business owners through three program areas: 1) Small business development (matched savings grants, loans, and business education), 2) Reentry, and 3) Community initiatives (refugee farming and the Community Investment Trust).”

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Application Process:

LIFE participants: Women who are in prison 24 months before release are able to apply for the LIFE program. Based off of interviews, MCNW staff determines how motivated they are about taking the course and reentry.

RTC Navigators: These positions are posted in numerous places like any job, however, the only difference is those with a felony conviction is preferred because RTC wants the authenticity and experience in their mentoring working with people. This lead to a better and more committed staff.

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Program Details:  

Mercy Corps Northwest is made up of three different programs. Lifelong Information for Entrepreneurs (LIFE) works with 30 women over a 32-week period to teach life skills, business planning, and reentry planning in Coffee Creek Correctional Facility and at Washington Corrections Institution for Women.

These classes led to the creation of the Reentry Transition Center (RTC) in 2009 for the formerly incarcerated to connect with services for employment, housing, reconnecting with family, and drug and alcohol treatment programs. The navigators of RTC are commonly those formerly incarcerated who are ready to support other struggling formerly incarcerated people. In order to fit the program,  all participants no matter their age or background are expected to create their own action plans that they have to monitor and commit to.

The final program is the Reentry Organization and Resources (ROAR), which is a consortium made up of 50 organizations that do reentry work. ROAR shares and navigates its information within its own organizations, to the public, and to policy makers in order to create systemic change towards a successful reentry.

Outcomes:

Serving over 2,500 individuals annually in Oregon and Washington, MCNW’s “reentry programs help incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals reintegrate back into the community and become positive influences in the lives of their families and neighborhoods.”

Funding:

MCNW’s primary funding source is to deal with people coming from parole and probation. ROAR is currently having some trouble continuing due to lack of funding because the RTC could not provide a grant. The RTC is struggling a bit as well, but it is still continuing.

Mercy Corp Northwest received a grant in which ROAR was able to donate to other mentorship programs, HARRP was one of those programs.

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Cons:

RTC is a small office, so there is not a lot of privacy. Since everyone can listen to anyone, it can be difficult for clients who want confidentiality.

What could be improved:

If there was more funding, MCNW would have ROAR continue more actively, with frequent and consistent meetings, guest speakers of various public officials, and keeping the staff informed on grants and new directions of reentry.

As for LIFE, with more funding it would mean teaching more classes within the prison.

RTC would be committed to work with more people.

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