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2015 Service Project

The 2015 Service Project focuses on the challenges faced by people returning to our communities from incarceration.  The Reentry Transition Center is one of several reentry programs operated by Mercy Corps Northwest.

Every year, approximately 2,500 people are released back into the Portland Metro area from state or federal prisons. In Oregon, approximately 24% of those individuals who return from incarceration will re-offend and return to state prison within three years of release. This comes at a high cost to the community. It has negative consequences to the individuals and their families, and perpetuates cycles of unemployment and poverty.

The Reentry Transition Center (RTC) has a twofold mission:

First, to help formerly incarcerated individuals integrate back into the community and become positive contributors to their families and neighborhoods. We believe in the potential of all people to build better lives for themselves, their families and the community.

Second, to reduce recidivism, increase public safety, decrease demand on law enforcement and judicial systems, and lower skyrocketing costs of incarceration.

The RTC welcomes people as they are reentering the community.  Most of the RTC’s navigators have had first-hand experience with reentry. They can both empathize personally with the challenges of reentry, and act as role models of people who have successfully rebuilt their lives. The RTC navigators help participants identify their greatest challenges and connect to the right resources. Our goal is to act as a hub and coordinating agency to existing services and expertise.

The RTC relies on a close partnership with over 20 community organizations to provide the specialized services needed to overcome these challenges.  During this process the RTC provides support and guidance in navigating resources, and provides for immediate needs that help keep people safe and healthy as they work to create a new life.

The RTC also acts as a location for supportive interaction between community members and the formerly incarcerated. Volunteers maintain a clothes closet with clothing donated by individuals and businesses. Volunteers also staff our computer lab, and help with research, writing, job applications and tutoring. Respectful, supportive interactions with mainstream community members are key components in the reintegration process for our participants.

In 2013, The Oregon Criminal Justice Commission conducted an evaluation of the RTC as part of a pilot project of three transition centers in Oregon. It found that the RTC has reduced re-arrests of its participants by 31%, which created a $14 savings in direct costs to the public safety system for every $1 invested in the project. The RTC currently welcomes over 1000 people through its doors in every year.

At General Assembly

Visit the Service Project booth #406 in the exhibit hall, and learn about how you can initiate a Reentry Transition Center in your community.

Look for the "Reframe Reentry" exhibit in locations around the Oregon Convention Center. The photo project is intended to expose and educate the public to the challenges and opportunities associated with reentry post incarceration and to give these women an opportunity to tell their powerful stories.

Join us for dinner on Friday evening, June 26th at 6:00 pm to meet staff, participants, and volunteers of this year’s GA Local Service Project—the Reentry Transition Center. Learn more about their successful program serving and advocating with formerly incarcerated individuals. Tickets ($25) must be purchased by June 18th.

Come by our open house on Saturday, June 27th between 10:00 am-1:00 pm. This will be a chance to have coffee and talk with RTC staff, clients, and volunteers, and to tour our center, which is just a 10 minute walk north from the Convention Center. The address of the RTC is 1818 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.  Directions and transit information available in the Exhibit Hall at Booth #406.

Learn more about the issues of mass incarceration and reentry during The Partnering to End the New Jim Crow panel on Saturday June 27 from 1:15-2:30 pm in OCC Oregon Ballroom 204.

Past Service Projects

The 2014 Service Project addressed hunger and homelessness in Rhode Island. Local organizers conducted an Empty Bowls project during General Assembly. Collections benefiedt two local organizations, Housing First RI and McAuley House.

The Sunday Morning Collection for General Assembly 2013 was given to the Kentucky Branch of Interfaith Power and Light, a national organization that has local and state chapters that provides an interfaith religious response to global warming. This campaign intends to protect the earth’s ecosystems, safeguard the health of all creation, and ensure sufficient, sustainable energy for all.

The 2012 Service Project was a Naturalization/Citizenship Fair, where Unitarian Universalist (UU) Volunteers assisted permanent residents who were eligible for citizenship in completing their final citizenship applications, while others performed support tasks.

The “Beat the Heat” Backpack Project provided the children of the Dysart Community Center with books, hats, water bottles, other necessities, and treats, packed into a backpack for each of them. Area children spend much time indoors during the summer heat, and the backpacks will help them through the summer.

Donations from the Sunday morning service at GA were shared between two Phoenix-area recipient organizations this year. The two organizations are: the Comités de Defensa del Barrio (CDBs) and Puente AZ.

The 2011 Service Project was In Our Own Back Yards youth summer camp. Over $32,000 was raised in donations. In Our Own Back Yards is an interfaith, service-based summer camp experience designed to open the eyes of campers to the harsh reality of poverty in the Charlotte Mecklenburg community.

Our 2010 Service Project with nearby Hope Community offered opportunities for hands-on service as well as donations. General Assembly attendees participated in a wide range of tasks including gardening, landscaping and painting. In addition, over $40,000 was raised in donations.

The 2009 service project raised $30,000 for the Utah Pride Center. The Utah Pride Center provides support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth, adults, and families through a variety of programs. With the money raised from Unitarian Universalists at General Assembly, the Utah Pride Center will expand their services for LGBT youth.

Hispanic Unity was selected as the 2008 service project; $23,000 was raised. The purpose of Hispanic Unity of Florida is to serve immigrants and their families from varying ethnicities, by empowering them to be successful in the United States.

In 2007, General Assembly raised $42,000 for Village Gardens, a sustainable urban agriculture program in Portland, OR.

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