On the rural north side of Tallahassee, the outstretched arms of Good News Outreach’s Mercy House welcome formerly incarcerated men as they begin the journey toward becoming contributing members of society. With the help of Good News Outreach volunteers, the men of Mercy House meet challenges head-on as they begin the process of making their own decisions and building lives on the other side of the barbed wire. In partnership with the Florida Department of Corrections, Mercy House’s six-to-nine month program attempts to replace the negative and hopeless environment these men have endured with a sense of concern, courage, and Christian love.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy
Mercy House’s goal is to ensure a successful transition for men who often have no family or friends to turn to once they are released from state correctional facilities with a bus ticket and fifty dollars in their pocket. Often without valid identification or a decent pair of shoes, the men of Mercy House come to us with a multitude of physical, material, social, and spiritual needs. Most prominent in that list of requirements is assistance in learning how to live without every daily decision being made for them. The process of bringing a client to Mercy House typically begins many months before an inmate’s release date and requires careful planning and follow-up to ensure an opportunity to achieve the life God meant program participants to have. A typical day of release for a Mercy House client transpires like this:
The Mercy House director arrives at the Greyhound station to pick up the weary traveler.
After introductions and an assessment of immediate needs, the next stop is a restaurant for a simple meal and a chance to chat.
Next, is a trip to a discount department store to purchase some basic items such as personal hygiene products, a couple of pairs of pants, some t-shirts, a pair of shoes, and underwear.
The last stop for the day is Mercy House to settle in and begin making plans for the next few days. Those plans include a Mercy House volunteer helping the new resident get a driver’s license or state ID, replace his Social Security card, apply for government assistance, and begin the process of looking for a job.
Upon successful completion of the program, it is common to witness these men create fulfilling, independent lives and avoiding incarceration. A majority of program participants never return to prison. Over the years, hundreds of men have found their way out of their previous existence and are living productive, positive lives. Mercy House “graduates” are employed in locations throughout the region, and many have found the support and love of family and friends. This is all made possible through the caring, generous support of our staff, volunteers, and local community members who support the efforts of the Good News Outreach prison transition program with practical, spiritual and monetary donations.