Catholic Charities is committed to helping individuals and families experiencing homelessness find affordable, stable housing. Our team helps veterans and their families, people with severe mental illness and others who need shelter. We have multiple programs to help homeless persons throughout Northern Arizona.

Friday, 08 May 2020

A Fresh Start … Just in the Knick of Time

Written by Luke Ostrand
Masks made by Michael. Masks made by Michael.

Michael was incarcerated in Arizona for seven-and-a-half years due to drug-related charges. A few months before his release, his sister reached out to Catholic Charities jail re-entry program and explained what his situation would look like immediately after his exit; and it required housing, which he didn’t have.

Michael was told that he was going to be released on parole, and after a year and a half he would be moved to probation in Coconino county. One requirement for his parole is housing. Without housing, he would be considered immediately violating parole on the day of his release, which could have potentially sent him back into incarceration.

MB Beanie 1

Ponderosa House Jail Re-Entry Program

Catholic Charities jail re-entry program works with people leaving incarceration by providing a safe, affordable place to live. Clients are supported by case managers who connect them to community resources.

The re-entry housing program prioritizes those immediately exiting incarceration, and residents can stay as long as they need, although most are stable and ready to move out before a year. It is impossible to promise bed space for anyone, and all the beds at Ponderosa were occupied at the time.

Luckily, just four days before his scheduled release date, a bed became available. The Catholic Charities team discussed the situation and assessed potential scenarios. Ultimately, Michael was selected as the new resident of the Ponderosa re-entry house.

Mask Box 1

Joy in Helping Others

One of Michael’s parole requirements is to complete 360 hours of community service. While he was incarcerated, Michael formed high-level tailoring skills and a joy for knitting and sewing.

Case managers worked with Michael to come up with a plan for him to use donated materials to knit scarves and beanies for those experiencing homelessness in the cold winter months in northern Arizona. Catholic Charities staff was able to sign off on his community service hours for his time spent making these.

As the COVID-19 pandemic increased in severity and personal protective equipment (PPE) became scarce, Michael came to us with the idea that he could make custom washable masks for people in need.

After donating 45 handmade beanies and 15 scarves between January and March, Michael put these on hold and began making masks. He plans on going back to making beanies and scarves throughout the summer, so we have them in the fall when people start to need them again.

In the first five weeks, Michael has already sewn over 100 masks and has no plans on stopping. He says, “as long as there is a need I will continue to work.” Currently there is a shortage of elastic nationwide, but Michael has cut and prepped an additional 200 masks while he waits on his next donation of materials. Catholic Charities staff has dispersed these across all five northern Arizona counties, and has plans to donate any medical-grade masks on hand back to local hospitals.

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