The Kennari Grants Team works with clients of all sizes and passions, helping them create compelling narratives to further their missions. Each time a grant is received we all celebrate the client’s success. Hope Network’s grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) is just one of many projects we enjoyed being a part of this past year.

Overcoming incredible odds and breaking down barriers are no easy tasks. For those re-entering society after incarceration, the path is often a difficult one, especially when it comes to employment. Although employment is strongly correlated with reduced recidivism, jobs can be hard to come by for ex-offenders. In today’s labor market, the widespread use of criminal background checks severely limits ex-offenders’ job prospects. In one study, over 40% of employers indicated they would “probably” or “absolutely” not hire an individual convicted of a crime. Employment prospects become even slimmer when individuals have violent or stigmatized convictions.

Fortunately, Hope Network, one of West Michigan’s most highly-regarded providers of workforce development, mental health, and rehabilitation services, is no stranger to helping people overcome barriers. Hope Network’s Workforce Development division launched a successful pilot program, Ready for Work (R4W), in 2012. R4W provides pre-release employment readiness training and post-release job support, placement, and coaching to male inmates of the Kent County Correctional Facility.

Over the past 6 years, the R4W program has helped hundreds of men get and keep steady jobs, reducing recidivism. However, the R4W team recognized that the program could be strengthened by partnering with other organizations providing re-entry services, including Arbor Circle, 70×7 Life Recovery, and Legal Aid of Western Michigan. These partnerships would potentially provide wraparound services pre-and post-release, including ongoing case management, mentoring, and civil legal services. This new concept program would do more than help individuals find employment, it would support individuals’ re-entry efforts at every step of the process. The Road to Success program was born. For Hope Network, the question became, “How can we fund this?”

With the support of the Kennari Consulting grants team, Hope Network applied for a federal grant through the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) to implement the Road to Success program for three years. The BJA grant was awarded in 2017 and will provide three years of funding for Road to Success, totaling nearly $1 million. Local foundation grants have also been sought to bring this program to fruition, namely the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation.

Road to Success will impact the Grand Rapids community for years to come. “This grant from the Bureau of Justice is an investment in our community, along with the support of the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation who share our interest in interrupting an outdated and stubborn re-entry model for those exiting the corrections system,” says Justin Swan, Director of Development for the Hope Network Foundation. “With the help of our partners, and the guidance of Kennari Consulting, we were able to build a new and innovative model that offers better outcomes for those exiting the corrections system and lends to economic development in the region.”

To learn more about Hope Network, please visit their website.