Over the past four years, Melvin Slate has seen several hundred men through Union Gospel Misson’s Restoration House, a program for men transitioning from prison life back into the community. Each man has a unique story to tell and a God-given plan only he can fulfill, but they share a common bond. “A lot of our guys feel they’re unwelcome in society because of their history,” Melvin says. Melvin, as client services coordinator, manages the Restoration House campus, which shelters up to 45 men at any given time. Most men come to Restoration House because they have no other options.
“They come here to work on getting into housing,” Melvin tells us. “Because of their criminal histories, they have a hard time getting an apartment. A lot of them have limited income.” The maximum stay at Restoration House is two years, although most men find permanent housing in six months to a year. During that time, residents participate in a structured, Christian-based program that includes spiritual guidance, case management, ongoing accountability and professional development coaching. In addition, Melvin says, “We have curfews and we have the men do chores.”
Melvin has noticed that one key element is necessary for a successful transition into society. “Men have to realize that they can’t do it alone. They have to be open to talk to other individuals about their struggles.” He notes that this can be difficult, as men are typically taught to work things out for themselves. Donors and volunteers go a long way toward easing the stigma experienced by many at Restoration House because of their criminal history. “You really make a difference,” Melvin says. “Knowing someone cares really helps them to overcome a lot of the barriers that they’re facing. It touches them deeply.”