Rebuilding after a fall: ‘Antioch Builds Community’ fights recidivism by providing a stable home


In prison, inmates are guaranteed a bed, at least three meals a day, access to education and a bathroom. Being incarcerated isn’t a luxurious experience but it provides the bare necessities.

After prison, those necessities are harder to find.

Lawrence Simmons was looking for a steady place to live in Georgia before he was called on to become the house manager for the transitional home. (Photo by Alex Sampson)

Lawrence Simmons was looking for a steady place to live in Georgia before he was called on to become the house manager for the transitional home. (Photo by Alex Sampson)

According to a 2008 survey from the N.C. Interagency Council for Coordinating Homeless Programs, 6.5 percent of homeless people identified themselves as being released from the criminal justice system.

Due to their criminal background, unaffordable housing and a lack of communication with family members along with other issues, settling back into society can be a difficult feat for some ex-offenders.

In order to combat this issue, the Antioch Builds Community – a nonprofit affiliate of the Antioch Baptist Church – looked to provide a temporary home for released inmates.

“We saw the need for responding to persons that had criminal records,” said Rev. Michael Page of Antioch Baptist Church.

Page is the current overseer of the transitional home for ex-convicts in Northeast Central Durham.

Page said the church started organizing for a home in 2005 and finally received it in 2008.

The prospect of building a house was out of the question because the church didn’t have the finances for it. Instead, they took a renovated house and remodeled it.

Located at 214 N. Hyde Park, the home gives male ex-convicts a healthy environment to live in until they can regain their independence.

Page said one of the goals in providing a transitional home for the community is to prevent recidivism.

According to a study from the Pew Center on the States and the Association of State Correctional Administrators, 41.1 percent of 22,406 inmates released in North Carolina in 2004 returned to prison within a three-year period.

“We’re trying to give them the tools to ensure they won’t go back to that behavior,” said Page.

The home can house up to three men with one per bedroom. Applicants have to go through the governing board which is made up of 6-8 members.

Potential residents are usually those who are coming straight out of the criminal justice system or who have been out for under a year.

Residents have autonomy but within reason.

Everyone is expected to clean up behind themselves. They’re also assigned regular chores around the home.

The men have to be out of the house from 8:30-5:00 to look for employment, conduct community service and perform any assigned duties. Their curfew is at 11 p.m. from Sunday-Thursday.

If employed, they have to pay $200 per month for the utilities. Rent is paid off through the community service they do.

On Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, they perform janitorial duties at the church.

In order to have Fridays and Saturdays off, the men must put in a request by Wednesday. If they intend to be out of the home for more than two days, the request is sent to the board. Otherwise, the request goes through Lawrence Simmons, the house manager.

Simmons said along with these stipulations, the men are required to stay clean. A drug test is administered if someone is suspected of consuming drugs or alcohol.

“If they’re found dirty, that’s immediate dismissal,” said Simmons.

However, Simmons said this has yet to be an issue.

Another issue they’ve yet to have is violence. If violence is threatened or committed, the aggressor also faces dismissal.

Simmons said the reality of being faced with homelessness or re-incarceration if they slip up acts as a deterrent to recidivism.

“It’s an incentive to let them know ‘this could one of your last chances if not your last chance to get your life together’,” Simmons said.

Simmons personally knows what it’s like to be given a second chance.

An addiction to drugs caused Simmons to frequently run into trouble with the law. Simmons said he went to prison twice on drug-related charges. In total, he had 34 arrests and five felonies.

“The last time I went to prison was March 17, 1991, the day I got off drugs,” Simmons said.

Since his last stint in prison, Simmons said he hasn’t had any more troubles with the law.

“I served time all the time I went but the last time, time served me.”

After being released, he worked at not only repairing himself but the relationship with his family.

Simmons said they were confused about his addiction and didn’t know how to handle it. His dedication as a father and husband deteriorated with his use of drugs.

Simmons said it took time for his family to finally trust him again but they’re now on good terms.

John Leverette has lived in the home since March and hopes to further pursue a career as a barber after leaving.  (Photo by Alex Sampson)

John Leverette has lived in the home since March and hopes to further pursue a career as a barber after leaving. (Photo by Alex Sampson)

“After three or four years, they finally realized I was going to stay off [drugs],” Simmons said.

Simmons began working at the transitional home on Nov. 1, 2011. Since coming to the home, he said there have been five residents.

John Leverette is the only other resident besides Simmons who currently lives there.

Leverette was imprisoned in 2009 for a committing a felony with a firearm.

“I was living in Charlotte and three guys tried to rob me, and I shot one of them,” Leverette said.

Leverette spent 14 days in a coma after being beat by his attackers. Leverette said once he awakened, he was informed he was going to jail. His bond was set to $150,000 which he could not meet.

As for the three males who attacked him, nothing happened to them.

Leverette said the prison life was rough in dealing with the same people every day. As a licensed barber, he said he focused on cutting hair.

“I just kept my nose clean and did what they told me,” Leverette said.

Leverette was released from Piedmont Correctional Institution in June 2012.

“When I first got out of prison, I had a home,” Leverette said.

Leverette said he went to live with his family in Butner after his release. After his mother developed Alzheimer’s, though, his sister was forced to put up the house for sale. His mother was placed in a nursing home.

Since then, Leverette said he’s been in and out of different shelters and homes.

When faced with the prospect of being homeless, Leverette said he went to Page for assistance.

He moved into the home in March and placed his request for a six month extension in September.

Leverette works occasionally with the Durham Economic Resource Center but wants to work as a barber again once Vocational Rehabilitation Services helps him get the proper equipment.

Leverette said he doesn’t know how long he’ll stay in Durham after his six months are up. He said his main concern is finding a steady home.

“The only difficulty is trying to find a place to stay,” Leverette said. “I ain’t never had to go through this.”

 

Alex is a NCCU staff writer.


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