by Kerri Hughes.
Located at 315 Broad Street, Broad Street Ministry is a place providing many unique services to Philadelphia’s homeless, food insecure, or those simply looking for a community. Although they are faith based, the staff at Broad Street Ministry believe in “radical hospitality.” No matter what you believe, you always have a seat at their table.
One of the more unique programs at Broad Street Ministry is the Re-Entry Service. This service provides a space for those previously incarcerated to share accounts of the barriers they experience after imprisonment. These include mental health issues, securing viable housing, and finding dependable employment in the face of hiring practices and reactionary prejudices that discriminate against those who have been imprisoned. Broad Street Ministry not only offers a safer space for formerly imprisoned people to assist one another, they also provide tangible opportunities for these guests to reintegrate into life outside of prison at their own pace
Director of Re-Entry Services Michael McKee provided some insights on why they believed the program was necessary: “More than half of our guests were telling us that they had at some point been arrested or incarcerated. And hundreds of people each year were telling us that they had just come home from prison that year or that month or that morning. So, the Re-Entry Services program is Broad Street Ministry’s response to that.” Unlike most re-entry programs, which participants are mandated by a court or judge to attend and subject to legal discipline if they do not, Broad Street Ministry’s Re-Entry program is entirely voluntary. In addition to the Re-Entry program, Broad Street Ministry also provides support for people with open cases who may have not yet faced jail time. Civic engagement is a part of the Re-Entry Service that provides a sense of community and participation. The staff assisted over 200 individuals in registering to vote, accessing mail-in ballots, and completing the census. The census impacts funding on social services, and the ability to vote ensures that people can be part of this aspect of democracy that we still have.
Being part of a community and having a role within it not only helps with mental health, but can ground you and give you a sense of belonging and meaning, despite any trauma you might be going through. In McKee’s words, “There’s no reckoning with deep poverty and racism in this city — or country — without reckoning with the trauma of incarceration.” The goal of Re-Entry and all services at Broad Street Ministry is not telling people “what to do,” but to provide healing for some of the most resilient people of Philadelphia.