The federal government today announced $1.23 million in funding for an Abbotsford-based project that helps newly released offenders reintegrate into the Fraser Valley.
MP Jati Sidhu (Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon) said the No One Leaves Alone (NOLA) Reintegration Project, run by M2W2 Association Restorative Christian Ministries, is expected to help 35 to 40 men and women ages 18 to 55 to make the transition from prison to living in their communities.
The individuals will be assisted with things such as finding suitable housing and stable employment; getting help for addiction or mental illnesses; and accessing education and skills training.
The project, which began its work in 2018 and is supported by volunteers, will serve Abbotsford, Mission, Chilliwack and Langley.
Sidhu announced the funding – provided from the federal government’s Crime Prevention Action Fund through the Ministry of Public Safety – during a press conference at Garden Park Tower in Abbotsford.
“Evidence tells us that prevention and reintegration programming can lead to fewer repeat offenders, fewer victims and, ultimately, safer communities,” he said.
“If we can help former inmates become productive law-abiding citizens, we absolutely should.”
NOLA program director Krystal Poje said that many men and women leaving jail will eventually return.
“Generally, these individuals do not have a healthy support system (or) the needs and/or skills needed for successful reintegration; thus, the prison gates become revolving doors,” she said.
“Research has shown that with a circle of support, the transformation process for offenders, as they reintegrate into community, is successful.”
Poje said NOLA involves three to five trained volunteers and staff meeting with an offender on a regular basis for 18 months, developing goals and working on creating a “secure, pro-social network.”
She said the program is monitored by a doctor from University of the Fraser Valley.
Arnie Melissen, chair of the M2/W2 board, said the organization is the ideal partner for the project, as it has spent the last 53 years mentoring and supporting individuals as they reintegrate into communities.
“This funding will help us focus more clearly on that specific task, and apply more resources to it to increase the number of offenders whose lives we can touch,” he said.
Meanwhile, Sidhu said he is pushing for funding to be reinstated for another Abbotsford crime-prevention program.
The In It Together program – aimed at preventing youths from becoming involved in gangs and crime – lost federal funding at the end of September.
If they are approved for new funding, that won’t start until this April, but there has been no commitment on that yet.
“I’m very hopeful … It’s on the map. I don’t know when, but I’m pushing hard,” Sidhu said.