First Year Evaluation of Greater Hartford Reentry Welcome Center Highlights Successes and Continued Challenges

Report reveals urgent need for additional housing and health services for returning citizens

Today the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving and the City of Hartford released an independent evaluation of the Greater Hartford Reentry Welcome Center’s (RWC) first year of operation, from September 2018 to 2019.  The RWC, which is operated by Community Partners in Action, supports individuals returning from incarceration, providing basic needs and referrals to a wide range of services in partnership with dozens of community organizations. The RWC assisted 458 unique individuals during its first year, and the evaluation utilized qualitative methods to document the Center’s strengths and make recommendations to address ongoing challenges.

“The Hartford Foundation is grateful to be a part of what is an example of a true public and private partnership designed to change the course of the lives of men and women returning home from prison,” said Hartford Foundation President Jay Williams. “This first-year evaluation speaks to the value of this collaborative effort to ensure that returning citizens are immediately connected to the supports and services that can enable a successful reintegration into the community. It also highlights the additional work and policy changes necessary to provide greater access to vital services such as housing and mental and physical health supports. The evaluation enumerates the need for improved data collection and coordination among the partners, and the Foundation is committed to ensuring these improvements are made to support our returning citizens. “

Opened in September 2018, the Reentry Welcome Center is funded through a three-year, $450,000 grant from the Hartford Foundation.  Under the administration of Community Partners in Action, the Center receives in-kind support from the City of Hartford, the Connecticut Department of Correction, the Connecticut Judicial Branch-Court Support Services Division and more than thirty community organizations. The mission of the Center is to ensure that individuals returning home will have access to support, information, resources, and referrals to vital services in one location.

“We built the Reentry Welcome Center because we believe our entire community is stronger when returning citizens have the chance to build the lives they hope for, and that we as a community have an important role to play in making that happen,” said Mayor Luke Bronin.  “This evaluation documents the value of creating one location where returning citizens can go for guidance and support, and it also highlights how much work we have left to do as a state to build stronger ladders of opportunity. We are extremely grateful to the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving for their crucial support to create the Reentry Welcome Center, and to Community Partners in Action and their network of supportive organizations who work with returning citizens every day.”

“Since our founding in 1875, a guiding belief of Community Partners in Action is that ‘People CAN change if given the opportunity and support’,” said CPA Executive Director Beth Hines.  “The Hartford Reentry Welcome Center embraces this belief by providing vital support to people coming home from prison.   CPA is grateful to work alongside the City of Hartford and our community partners, who assist us with operating the Center and provide a myriad of services to those in need.  As the Center’s middle name indicates, a primary objective of the program is that everyone who enters our doors feels “Welcome”.  Providing compassionate reentry services has been integral to CPA’s mission for more than 145 years.  As a community, we are responsible for providing a continuum of support to people coming home so they can be successful.  Successful individuals help build stronger and more resilient families and communities.”

The evaluation made several key findings and recommendations to improve the services offered by the network of partner organizations through the Re-Entry Welcome Center:

  • Locating the Greater Hartford Reentry Welcome Center at Hartford City Hall has been beneficial; it has served as a central hub for people looking for assistance with reentry.
  • Providing tangible goods, such as phones and computers, as well as referral information is invaluable for people seeking to get on their feet again, and there is greater need for those tangible goods.
  • The Center provides returning citizens with a safe, welcoming place to receive basic assistance, guidance, resources, referrals and case management support. The Department of Correction’s practice of bringing people completing their sentence directly to the Center, rather than dropping them off on the street, reduces the likelihood of trauma upon release.
  • Participants in the evaluation generally agreed that the most critical and widespread unmet need for people released at the end of their sentences is access to stable housing. A majority of the people who seek services at the Center lack shelter and a safe, stable place to live.
  • Many people released at the end of sentence have physical and behavioral health issues and face multiple systemic obstacles due to poverty, unemployment, low educational attainment and literacy, chronic stress, and histories of complex trauma.
  • The Center’s case managers, including those who were previously incarcerated, offer guidance and support to recently released people in a manner that respects their dignity and recognizes their potential to become successful and productive members of their communities.
  • The End of Sentence population requires more opioid addiction treatment beds and stronger linkages to mental health and addiction services that can provide connections in the community. Creating more effective, efficient systems for reintegrating returning citizens into their communities is essential to addressing the cluster of issues they may face. CPA and InterCommunity Inc’s SAMSHA-funded program is an important step in providing an integrated system of care for people with opioid and mental health issues upon release.
  • The Greater Hartford Reentry Welcome Center Collaborative, involving multiple service providers and partners, is uniquely positioned to implement innovative solutions to improve quality of life, reduce mortality, and lower the recidivism rate for returning citizens.
  • Better documentation of people’s needs and referral tracking through an improved data system may lead to more effective management of the Greater Hartford Reentry Welcome Center participants and an enhanced ability to track outcomes.
  • Other major goals: to strengthen participant engagement and to involve more partners in the delivery of workshops and other skill-building activities at the Center.

To download a copy of the full report, follow this link.