Dismas House Provides a Fresh Start for Former Inmates
Helping find a stable job and secure permanent housing for individuals recently released from incarceration are two vital missions of Dismas, Inc., a nonprofit transitional housing program located in the Belmont area near downtown Nashville.
“The ultimate goal of Dismas is for those we serve to remain free from incarceration by becoming self-sufficient and productive members of our society. We truly have a family-oriented, holistic approach that makes our model unique. From the moment a new resident walks through the door until the day they leave, Dismas is their home and they are forever a part of the Dismas family,” says Chief Executive Officer Gerald Brown.
Many Nashvillians may know Dismas for their weeknight dinners, where community volunteers prepare a meal and sit down with former inmates in an effort to help integrate Dismas residents into mainstream society and share experiences and fellowship. Weekly one-on-one sessions are time set aside to work on attaining goals such as identification needed for employment, driver’s license, government services, employment and permanent housing…all critical steps toward independence.
The need for Dismas’ services is great. Currently Dismas House offers eight beds but the organization receives an average of 300 applications a year. To meet this growing demand, Dismas will be launching a capital campaign to expand their current facility to a much larger facility on Charlotte Ave. that will serve many more individuals. The targeted opening date is summer 2018.
The goal is to make the individuals they serve as independent as possible and this includes financial independence. Dismas offers a savings match program to help participants save money for securing housing, such as an apartment, as well as brings in guest speakers to discuss building credit and other personal finance topics. The average stay at Dismas is six months, with the maximum stay being two years. Dismas has a strict screening policy; no sex offenders are accepted into the program.
Dismas House opened in 1974 after Father Jack Hickey and a group of Vanderbilt University students came up with the idea to create a save haven that would build a deeper sense of community for both parties and would help former offenders find supportive services, obtain jobs and become full and successful participants in the larger society.
Interested in volunteering at Dismas? Contact Program Coordinator Davey Shepherd at 615-297-9287. There are several short-term and long-term opportunities to serve on committees as well. In addition, the facility needs donations such as furniture, clothing and personal hygiene products.