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May 3, 2013: PLACES Helps Ex-offenders Start Their Lives Over

Returning Home OhioMiami Valley Housing Opportunities (MVHO) recently selected PLACES as a services provider for the Returning Home Ohio (RHO) reentry program, which helps people with severe mental illnesses reentering society after incarceration.

“Research seems to indicate that people who have a place to go are less likely to reoffend,” explained Judith Patterson, director of client services for PLACES. “Transitioning back into the community can be very difficult, especially when there are no natural supports ready to welcome a person back.”

PLACES connects clients to mental health agencies and teaches them so they can maintain housing, obtain valid employment to increase their income, improve their quality of life and ultimately be independent in their own housing. The program goal is to reduce recidivism.

“This is the starting place,” noted Penney Kramer, RHO case manager at PLACES, who’s currently serving eight men and three women and can accept up to 15 total. MVHO gives these individuals access to housing, usually for up to one year. Kramer shops for all household items and food so the housing is move-in ready for clients.

“Since they don’t have to worry about rent and utilities, they can work on resumes, job hunting and lease compliance,” explained Kramer, who meets with clients weekly or every two weeks to help them progress toward their goals. That may involve addressing barriers such as a lack of education or substance abuse.

Frequent contact helps clients stay accountable, said Kramer, who also coordinates the men’s and women’s RHO support groups for PLACES. Here clients can focus on interpersonal skills, cognitive thinking and behavior change: how to respond instead of react, for example. Clients learn that actions have consequences, and if they make the wrong choices, they could lose their housing.

“Since these individuals all have mental health issues, they can come together in a support group from wherever they are being housed in the community, connect on common issues and relate to each other in a positive way as PLACES clients,” she said. “I’ve observed more self-awareness happening among men and women in the RHO groups.”

Once clients complete the RHO program and gain their own housing, they are already well-established with a mental health provider and other services in the community, Kramer said.

“We make sure their needs are met, and we look at them as beautiful people with beautiful opportunities,” she said. “We want to diligently work with these clients so they can see their potential and move forward.”

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