Gemeinschaft Home Launches New Program
In collaboration with the city of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, Gemeinschaft Home now provides a new service—a Day Reporting Center (DRC)—that offers an alternative to incarceration in the local community.
Developed in response to ever-growing concerns about jail overpopulation and rates of recidivism, the program offers intensive supervision of certain individuals, often first-time offenders, while they remain in the community and can sustain employment, childcare, and other obligations.
For a brief period in the early 2000s, there was a Day Reporting Center in Harrisonburg, sponsored by the Virginia Department of Corrections, but the program was dissolved shortly after its creation, due to a lack of funding resources.
However, in August 2015, the city of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County issued a public call for proposals to establish a day reporting center in the local area. Gemeinschaft Home answered, developing a proposal to establish such a program, and soon after began contract negotiations with local government officials to hammer out the details.
The Day Reporting Center officially opened in January of this year, and, while separate from the existing residential program at Gemeinschaft Home, the program operates from the same location on Mount Clinton Pike in Harrisonburg. Participants are subject to ongoing drug and alcohol screens and receive individual case management, counseling, and referrals to other community services.
Residence Life Coordinator, Jumar Peterson, has taken on the role of managing the new DRC, which is based on a cognitive-behavioral therapy model. The program embodies a life-recovery approach, and participants address a range of issues, from interpersonal communication and family relationships, to anger management and addiction.
Individuals are referred to outside professional resources, particularly in cases where medical treatment for mental health and/or substance abuse is necessary, but also for mentorship and employment opportunities.
Jasmine Gray, the program assistant explains that each participant receives an individualized case plan, based on his or her level of need. For example, some individuals must check in daily, while others report once a week, but all participants are screened for drugs and alcohol and required to attend group counseling sessions. Gray adds that case plans include additional directives from court services, such as an order for a participant to complete the Alcohol Safety Action Program (ASAP) or a number of community service hours.
Participants started arriving the first week of January, and so far, the program has enrolled a total of ten individuals—five women (age 20-25), and five men (age 20-45). At this point, no one has been terminated from the program. Examples of actions that could result in a dismissal include failing a drug and/or alcohol screen, missing a required meeting with a case manager, and being charged with another crime.
Sharon Ringgold, the executive director of Gemeinschaft Home, expects the number of participants entering the program to increase over the next several months, as the referral process for enrollment is refined and more judges order the Day Reporting Center as a viable alternative to incarceration for some offenders.
Ringgold also anticipates the need for greater building capacity and a larger staff to manage the program in the near future. She is proud to say that Gemeinschaft Home is well-equipped to serve a significant number of individuals in the community who need help more than a jail cell.
College Students Working to Learn
At the heart of just about any non-profit organization is a sizable portion of unpaid labor. Of course the core staff members receive a salary and employment benefits—and appropriately so—but the success of a great organization is, in large part, the result of a volunteer workforce.
Student interns from local colleges and universities represent an indispensable resource of donated work for Gemeinschaft Home. Whether on a semester- or year-long basis, both undergraduate and graduate students earn course credits working in a variety of contexts within the organization. For example, graduate students fulfill practicum hours working with residents on the counseling side of the program or help to collect data for research and statistical analysis purposes.
The cohort of student interns currently working at Gemeinschaft Home is a unique mix of undergraduate and graduate students from a range of academic backgrounds and institutions. Each student brings dedication and skill, while gaining real-world experience the opportunity to grow, and the residents and staff are grateful for their commitment.
Spring 2016 Interns
James Madison University
Undergraduate—major: accounting/minor: psychology
Undergraduate—major: sociology/minor: criminal justice
Clerical/entering case notes
Blue Ridge Community College
Group sessions/resident referrals