Non-profit Launches Program for Ex-Cons » Urban Milwaukee
Meghan Rock, Elyse McFeggan and Chris Reisner

Non-profit Launches Program for Ex-Cons

Community Warehouse in Bronzeville and Walker's Point offers classes, coaching, jobs.

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The Community Warehouse has launched a new re-entry program called Partners for Hope, which is intended to help formerly incarcerated individuals get back on their feet.

The mission of the faith-based organization, which has locations on both the north and south sides of the city, is to revitalize impoverished neighborhood and provide work for individuals with challenged backgrounds.

The new program offers various 18-month long courses, on topics ranging from substance abuse to job training. Community Warehouse also connects recently incarcerated individuals with mentors at its two locations. “We’re partnering with Federal Prison Systems, the House of Corrections, different programs like that,” said Bronzeville store manager Samuel Foster.

Employees work full time and participate in hour-long classes once a day. Coaching also takes place on Wednesday evenings, during which new employees are paired with mentors who help them transition into the workplace.

CEO Nick Ringger recently interviewed 39 soon-to-be-released inmates at the House of Correction to fill 10 positions in the Partners for Hope Program, which started on May 7.

During the past three years, Community Warehouse has hired about 85 formerly incarcerated people.

“I got in trouble with the law and coming to Community Warehouse, they helped me as far as getting myself back on track,” said employee Theodore Edgecomb.

Community Warehouse, which opened its second location at 324 W. North Ave. in Bronzeville in September, offers discounted housing materials to help rebuild disadvantaged communities. Unused building materials are donated by contractors, manufacturers, developers and others. In addition, customers can purchase high-quality household products, new clothing and technology products, such as mobile phones, at deeply discounted rates.

Community Warehouse currently employs 45 people at its two sites. The original South Side location, at 521 S. 9th St., opened in 2005.

“From what I understand they are giving people a second shot at life,” said customer Fred Townsend. “That’s a cause worth supporting.”

Ringger said Community Warehouse works with formerly incarcerated individuals so they will be able secure a better job. With the organization’s support, about 90 percent of the individuals hired have broken the cycle of reincarceration, he added.

Faith is the driving force behind Community Warehouse; Bible verses are painted at the ends of the aisles in the original store. The organization also offers a weekly Bible study for workers, who can receive compensation for attending the sessions.

Ringger said that with patience and the right partners, Community Warehouse could be successful in any U.S. city.

“Every city has the same thing,” he added. “They have products that will go into the landfill, they’ve got men and women who desperately need jobs, they’ve got neighborhoods that need to be rebuilt.”

This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories reporting on eighteen city neighborhoods in Milwaukee.

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