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 Transition 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 Transition Specialist held individual appointments with clients to fill out FAFSAs, college applications, financial aid forms, scholarship applications, and class registration. Additionally, the Transition Specialist helped address defaulted student loans and Pell grants as well as Selective Service issues. Working together with DOC staff, the Transition Specialist strove to build a network of support for the client, both while incarcerated and on the intended campus once released. Since 2014, the STAR Transition Specialist had served over 1,102 individuals at Washington State Penitentiary.
In September 2018, STAR changed the way the Pre-Release Transition program works. Through a cooperative agreement between Washington State Penitentiary and Walla Walla Community College, a new Reentry Navigator position was created at the penitentiary. This position duplicated many of the duties the STAR Transition Specialist had previously performed, so STAR stepped back from Washington State Penitentiary and began focusing on cases at the Walla Walla County Jail.
STAR is committed to providing services to people exiting from Washington State Penitentiary and reentering the community of Walla Walla. To this end, STAR now coordinates these cases with the Reentry Navigator from Washington State Penitentiary. STAR's Reentry & Employment Specialist provides reentry and employment case management services for people who are incarcerated.
General Case Management
When people exit prison/jail they often have no official form of identification, no access to health care/insurance, have large legal fees, and face civil legal matters they were unable to address while incracerated. 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 and 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 within the community at large. STAR also assists in addressing 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.
Additional needs often 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 Legal Financial Obligation 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 can to facilitate a successful and permanent transition from incarceration to community. As a result, 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 are considered to be at a high risk for chronic homelessness. Justice-involved individuals often end up homeless, living on a friend or relative’s couch or on the streets.
We are dedicated to helping justice-involved individuals with transitional housing. One of the biggest obstacles is finding landlords who will rent to our clients and give them a second 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. STAR's support of rental assistance subsidies 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.
STAR Project clients involved in our housing program are required to attend our Ready to Rent program, which teaches them the skills they need to become successful renters in the future. Ready to Rent is a 6 week program that STAR housing clients must attend once a week, after which they receive a certificate of completion.
The STAR Project often partners 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 local network of drug and alcohol sober living houses.
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, STAR 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. STAR's Reentry & Employment Specialist helps people with job readiness skills, makes referrals to employers, and builds relationships with potential employers. The Reentry & Employment Specialist is also responsible for conducting in-reach to the Walla Walla County Jail.
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 Bachelor's degree to not having finished high school.
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 WWCC.
Our clients have successfully completed programs from HVAC, Welding, and Automotive Tech all the way to CDL, Sustainable Energy, and Culinary Arts.