FreshStart Visions participants move into homes which have been abused or abandoned, and renovate and repair the homes and restore community. Initial plans call for renovating dozens of homes in the ‘Charleston Neck’ between North Charleston and Charleston. This will provide ‘workforce housing,’ or ‘affordable housing’ for preachers, teachers, policemen, firemen and service workers who cannot otherwise afford to buy or rent a home in the Charleston area.
FreshStart Visions is planning to partner with public officials and other local nonprofits to build a strong support network for ex-offenders and their neighbors. We plan to invite young law enforcement officers into the community to live. The Fresh Start program will help to provide affordable housing, not only for participants, but also for others, including younger police, who may otherwise find it difficult to afford Charleston’s high costs. Having this police presence will help build relationships in the community and discourage drug and property crimes.
FreshStart Visions program participants will live in many of the homes and be supported by a structured program to help them succeed on the outside. FreshStart Visions will purchase and restore additional houses for renovation and either lease them out or sell them and reinvest the proceeds into the FreshStart Visions Program. FreshStart Visions is redeeming lives and restoring community. We are working to provide a safe supportive environment for these men and women while rebuilding the area in which they will now live.
The FreshStart Visions program has identified a ‘base of operations’ or ‘headquarters’ on Clement Avenue in North Charleston. FreshStart Visions has made an offer to purchase this property, contingent upon our being able to find financing. This headquarters will provide a 20 bed ‘beachhead’ in which FreshStart Visions’ Participants can live, work, learn and grow. As we begin to fill this facility to capacity, we plan to purchase additional houses nearby to restore, renovate and either lease or sell. This will provide a major force for reinvestment in, and redevelopment of this struggling Cherokee/Chicora area in the community.
While we are building our ‘headquarters’ for the Charleston area, we will be looking for other states within the Southeast with which we can partner. We want to take the FreshStart Visions Prison Ministry Model into numerous other states. Yet, we want to work with states who are prepared to help fund the growing operation and invest in our future together. And we want state governments who will cut red tape and move mountains to get the opportunity to participate in this program that will save them tens of millions of dollars annually.
The curriculum of the FreshStart Visions program is based upon the Christian philosophy of redemption and restoration. The program involves working with inmates during their last one to two years of incarceration. During their time in the program, they participate in an intensive and highly structured 50-week program where they are encouraged to think about their future, and how to make it more important than their past. They are trained, tested and vetted. The participants must:
- Learn to deal respectfully with authority.
- Learn to become transparent – working with a mentor to isolate behaviors that brought them to prison and to address them constructively.
- Learn to take responsibility for their actions, both past and present. If you ‘mess up,’ you ‘fess up’ and work to make amends.
While still imprisoned, FreshStart Visions participants will live in character housing units which are less restrictive and where they are allowed to move more liberally and police themselves. They learn to live in their community productively and to hold one another accountable for their actions. The learn how to collaborate with others, and they begin to help each other. After release from prison, the ex-offenders are provided with three key elements:
- Housing in a supportive and structured Christian home, and
- A structured network of support through mentors and a church community.
Through these support systems, they are given hope, material and spiritual support. The transformation of their lives is nothing short of a miracle.
FreshStart Visions welcomes participation from all churches and community organizations who want to help these men and women get reintroduced and reintegrated into society as law abiding and tax paying citizens who want to live constructive and fulfilling lives in community with their neighbors.