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GOAL $8,000. Please help open the doors of FirstSteps, a transitional house for people returning home from prison to Champaign County, Illinois. The house will prioritize men who would otherwise return homeless, a critical need in the community. FirstSteps will offer a program for success. FirstFollowers peer mentors, who have all been through the criminal justice system themselves, will support each resident on their journey back into the community.
Unitarian Universalist Church at Urbana Champaign Created 1 Project View Website
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The Unitarian Universalist Church of Urbana-Champaign (UUCUC) is partnering with FirstFollowers to open FirstSteps, a re-entry house for people returning to our community after incarceration. UUCUC has already committed $5500 for this desperately needed program.  Many other congregations, community organizations, and government programs are also supporting this cause.  Funds raised from this Faithify campaign will be used to cover startup and operational expenses. The FirstSteps house is scheduled to open this Fall.  They have already raised 85% of the funds needed to open, this Faithify campaign could get them to 100%. Please consider supporting the FirstSteps home and sharing this campaign with your network.

FirstFollowers is a local non-profit supporting people returning to the community from incarceration.  Over the years of providing peer mentorship to people leaving prison, they recognized a stark need for housing.

Housing is very scarce for those with any history of criminal justice system involvement. Historically, the local Housing Authority has banned formerly incarcerated people from returning to their units, even if they have family members living there. This is slowly changing with advocacy, but the demand for public housing still far outstrips the supply. In Champaign, landlords are legally allowed to refuse to rent to people with certain felony convictions. Other obstacles, like application fees and credit checks, exclude most people returning home from prison. With nearly 400 people on state supervised release in Champaign County, there is a huge need for supportive services.

FirstFollowers is working with the Housing Authority of Champaign County to renovate a home on Ells Street in Champaign. FirstFollowers GoMAD scholars are young people with some criminal justice involvement who are being trained in construction skills.  GoMAD scholars are currently working side-by-side with contractors to ready the FirstSteps home for its first residents.  When the home is complete and enough funds are raised to launch the program, staff and volunteer mentors will welcome up to four residents at a time.

FirstSteps is not just a house or a bed. Individuals living in the house will have the support of FirstFollowers peer mentors. Residents will also be connected with local resources and provided with access to opportunities for employment, training, and education. In addition, peer mentors will help them establish personal plans and goals offering social/emotional support through their networks of allies in the community.

First Followers’ mission is to build strong and peaceful communities by providing support, guidance, and hope to formerly incarcerated people and their loved ones through peer mentorship.

​FirstFollowers offers:

A safe stigma free environment

Peer mentoring

Assistance with employment searches

Job readiness training

Advocacy for individuals with felony convictions

Family reunification

Service referrals

View website:  https://www.firstfollowersreentry.com/

UUCUC is pleased to sponsor this Faithify campaign to help FirstFollowers acquire the necessary funds to make the FirstSteps home a reality.  FirstSteps will not just benefit the residents, but the entire community. We thank you in advance for your support. We hope to have many community members present on FirstSteps opening day, to not only celebrate, but to commit to a continuing partnership. Please read the UU Connections tab to learn how UUCUC came to support FirstFollowers and the FirstSteps transitional house.

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