Monthly Archives: March 2008

Residency Rule Jeopardizes Funding

By Dr. Chad Audi

The Detroit City Council has decided to postpone the start of a new policy that denies federal Community Development Block Grants and Neighborhood Opportunity Funds to Detroit nonprofit groups whose boards are not made up of at least 51% Detroit residents. The residency requirement will now be revisited by council for next year’s block grant allocation process.

As you can imagine, this controversial “board residency requirement” would have a tremendous impact on organizations that help the disadvantaged in Detroit, like the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM). Under the ordinance, DRMM and more than 100 other nonprofits would be ineligible for the funds. The council’s new vote basically amounts to a one year reprieve for nonprofits. They will have to comply or face a total loss of millions of dollars next year. Not only do the grants provide crucial funding for services, programs, utilities and salaries, but some suburban donors already have indicated they will stop giving to DRMM “if this is how people in Detroit are viewing us.” That response comes as a reaction to the council’s original decision and defense of the requirement. Councilwoman Barbara-Rose Collins was quoted in the news media as saying that allowing suburbanites to be the majority on nonprofit boards showed a “slave master mentality.”

What difference does it make whether the majority of a nonprofit’s board members are city residents? Part of a board member’s responsibility is to help the charities get money, and they are not paid for the work they do. What truly matters is what’s in their hearts. Can only Detroiters determine the best way to spend money for needy Detroiters? Of course not. It’s the people who need help who will suffer the most from this residency rule. What do you think?

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Giving Former Inmates Another Chance

 By Dr. Chad Audi

We’ve all heard the saying, “Everyone deserves another chance.” That’s what some former Michigan inmates are getting through a program called “Michigan Prisoner ReEntry Initiative (MPRI).” Parolees and prisoners who will be released without supervision are placed in the program prior to leaving prison or jail. They get assistance on how to successfully transition back to their communities and receive the resources they need, such as shelter, food, clothing, job skills, transportation and much more. The Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM) provides its services to help the former inmates integrate back into society, which in turn can lead to a dramatic reduction in recidivism.

“The Michigan Prisoner ReEntry Initiative is the governor’s response to reducing crime and improving safety in the community by eliminating or reducing as best as possible those folks who end up coming in and out of our prison system and better tooling them to return to communities safely and have the skills that they need to transition into their communities and be productive citizens,” said Tamela Aikens, MPRI community coordinator for Wayne and Monroe counties.

Remember, many of these men and women have seen only prison walls for decades. Society has changed a great deal since they’ve been incarcerated. They need help dealing with those changes and getting on with their lives. “Bruce” came to DRMM through the MPRI after spending 26 years in prison. Neighborhoods he frequented had changed, and so had the people he once knew. With nowhere to go, the Detroit Rescue Mission provided Bruce with transitional housing, clothing and food. After numerous rejections from employers, he found a job and is planning to become an entrepreneur. “I feel when a guy’s getting out of prison just give him a shot at the title; it won’t hurt, he’s only human. He did what he did, it’s true, but give him a chance; see what he can do because we all are gifted in some way or another, but all we need is a chance,” said Bruce.

The MPRI collaboration gives Bruce and several other former inmates another chance at becoming productive citizens. That’s extremely critical, especially when you consider the fact that about 5 percent of prisoners in Michigan and across the country die in prison. That leaves 95 percent who come home to the community. If we help those men and women re-integrate into the system, we’ll have a more peaceful and safer society.

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Women Getting a Fresh Start

 By Dr. Chad Audi

Prostitution is often referred to as a “non-violent” or “victimless” crime. But the primary victim is the woman who sells her body ─ usually for drugs, alcohol or to just plain survive on the streets. However, lifestyles can be changed. The Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM) is involved in a groundbreaking rehab program for habitual, drug-addicted prostitutes, aptly called “Project Fresh Start.” Judge Leonia Lloyd of Detroit’s 36th District Court, the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office and the Detroit Bureau of Substance Abuse Prevention, Treatment & Recovery administer the program, which offers treatment as an alternative to jail. The goal is for the women to remain drug free, acquire housing and land jobs. Most importantly, Project Fresh Start restores dignity and self-respect and the women become productive citizens of the community. DRMM provides substance abuse treatment, shelter, clothing, food, counseling, education and job skills for women in the program.

What makes a woman turn to prostitution or keep going back to it? Do substance abuse and sex addictions have that tight of a hold on her? Or sometimes is it to earn a little money on the side? Regardless of the reason, it can be overcome. An emphasis must be placed on teaching job skills to the women and furthering their education. Challenge their minds in a positive manner. Let’s face it, in many ways they already are “entrepreneurs” ─ selling a product and making money. They just need to be shown how to use their talents in constructive ways.

One prime example is “Tonyia.” She had a college degree, two children, a husband and a promising career as an addiction counselor when she got caught up in drugs herself. She went through tens of thousands of dollars in just a few months. “Crack has caused me to lose relationships with my family, it also cost me to fall out of fellowship with the Lord, my degree was no good to me whatsoever; it’s unethical for me to counsel and I was drug addicted, so I stopped,” she said. For Tonyia, prostitution offered a way to support her growing drug habit. But since she entered Project Fresh Start and came to DRMM, Tonyia’s life has changed dramatically. She looks forward to returning to her counseling career, and she has made amends with her children.

Project Fresh Start is part of Detroit’s successful Drug Treatment Court. Helping people overcome their drug addiction saves lives and reunites families. “One of the benefits of Drug Court is that when you graduate, your misdemeanors that are under the program are all dismissed. So you walk out with a clean record, hopefully with a new trade, a new education. We’ve got some ladies that go to college . . . we’ve got those that finish culinary art programs and other training programs; it depends on what their interest is. But the bottom line is to start living,” said Judge Lloyd.

Drug Court is holding its 10th annual rally on Tuesday, May 13, 2008 at 12:00 p.m. at Detroit’s Hart Plaza. The rally will be preceded by a press conference at 10:30 a.m.  The public event will include food, fun and entertainment.  Why not show up to support Judge Leonia J. Lloyd, the Drug Court team and the life-changing miracles occurring at 36th District Court.

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