STAR offers our clients a broad range of services. We take an intensive client driven case management approach. This means that the needs and goals of the client drive our process. We also coordinate planning with many relevant local agencies including: Community Corrections Officers, BMAC, Helpline, DHS/DSHS, Serenity Point and Walla Walla Community College. The STAR Project works with clients through four primary programs: Pre-Release Transition, Case Management, Housing, and Employment. These programs are growing and changing constantly, so come back frequently for updated information.
In 2014, the STAR Project added a paid staff member to work as a Transitions Specialist at the Washington State Penitentiary. For many years, STAR volunteers provided insight and assistance to those still incarcerated who wished to attend college (or continue their studies) post-release. Our Transitions Specialist holds individual appointments with clients to fill out FAFSA, college applications, financial aid forms, scholarship applications, and class registration. Additionally, the Transitions Specialist helps address defaulted student loans and Pell grants as well as Selective Service issues. Working together with DOC staff, the Transitions Specialist strives to build a network of support for the client, both while incarcerated and on the intended campus once released.
General Case Management
When people exit prison/jail they often have no official form of identification, large legal fees, civil legal matters they were unable to address while inside and no access to health care/insurance. They also are frequently required to stay in communities where they don’t have a solid support network and need social/emotional support as well as financial-logistical services. The STAR Project provides case management for clients entering into services, clients who are currently receiving services, and for clients exiting services. Generally, clients receive more intensive case management upon entry and transition to a more self-sustaining model of assistance as they gain financial and emotional stability.
Upon arriving at STAR, clients’ needs are assessed and an appropriate course of case management is determined in collaboration with the client. Referrals are made to STAR housing and employment services, as well as to contacts at WWCC and the community at large. We also address the client's access to health services. Clients are guided through the steps that must be taken to get their needs met and supported in achieving goals they set for themselves in these areas.
Often needs arise for our clients that do not fall into the aforementioned categories, and these needs are addressed by case management as well. STAR Project case management has assisted clients in navigating LFO payments, child support and custody issues, the acquisition of state issued ID, temporary resolution of transportation issues, and various other needs as they arise. Our goal is to do everything we possibly can to facilitate a successful and permanent transition to productive member of society and in order to do so, case management can be as individual as the individuals themselves.
As part of case management services we facilitate a weekly Moral Reconation Therapy (MRT) group. This is a cognitive behavioral therapy program developed specifically for implementation with people exiting prison/jail.
Finding stable, livable, affordable housing for our clients is one of our most difficult tasks. In fact people exiting from prison or jail time are considered to be at a high risk for chronic homelessness. People often end up literally homeless, living on a friend or relative’s couch or sometimes even taken advantage of by strangers who seem to be offering them shelter only to steal from and abuse them.
We are dedicated to helping released inmates with transitional housing. One of the biggest obstacles is finding landlords who will rent to ex-felons and give them a 2nd chance. We have developed relationships with a few local landlords who have agreed to work with our clients. Though very limited, we have been able to secure apartments with these landlords. This support of rental assistance can last up to 60 days for those individuals who have been recently released from jail or prison. This opportunity has offered housing stability for our clients which gives them a start to become self-supporting.
As a STAR Project client who receives housing also is required to attend our Ready to Rent program which teaches them the skills to become successful renters in the future. Is a 6 week program that they attend once a week and receive a certificate of completion once they finish all the sessions.
Also, as The STAR Project is part of the Homeless Alliance, we often partner with several other agencies regarding housing matters. For example, we help clients who are in recovery arrange to live in one of the three local Oxford houses, which is a drug and alcohol sober living house.
For our clients finding employment, even with an education, can be difficult because of hiring practices that disqualify applicants with felonies before they ever get a chance to discuss their qualifications.
Besides directing prospective employers towards these services we also can help clients with job readiness, resumes and cover letters, and with referrals to WorkSource, BMAC Jobs, 70 Million Jobs and the Department of Vocational Rehab. We share an employment transition specialist with BMAC who helps people with job readiness as well as makes referrals and builds relationships with potential employers.
One of the ways that our clients can support themselves and increase their potential to successfully integrate into the community is by pursuing education. Our clients exit prison/jail with anywhere from a bachelors to not having finished high school. We most often support people in getting their GEDs or getting into and completing vocational programs at Walla Walla Community College.
We start at the very beginning of this process by assisting clients to work through the sometimes confusing FAFSA application process as well as the college application process. We have a strong partnership with counsellors, admissions and program directors at WWCC which allows us to fully support clients throughout the entirety of their time at CC.
Once successfully enrolled we have a tuition, fees and supplies loan program that enables clients to successfully start their programs while waiting for their financial aid to be disbursed. This fills in gaps in our clients’ ability to get off to the prepared start they need to succeed in school. We have also worked with clients to set up payment plans that will allow them to get previous school loans out of delinquency and on track to rehabilitation.
Our clients have successfully completed programs from HVAC, Welding, and Automotive Tech all the way to CDL, Sustainable Energy, and Culinary Arts.