Project Cope Overview
Project COPE accepts men and women who have served long prison terms for violent crimes and whose family relationships are strained or limited. You must have received an outdate from the Parole Board that is eight months to two years in the future. Write to COPE, stating your outdate and a little about yourself, and ask for an application. If your application is accepted, someone from COPE will come to interview you.
If you are accepted into COPE, you will be partnered with a team from a faith congregation, making a one-year commitment together.
COPE owns three apartment buildings and 10 transitional housing units. Most of our partners need housing and stay in one of our apartments until they have a job and are able to afford their own place. Housing is available for up to eight months. Our residents are expected to get a job and begin paying program fees within the first two months. These fees are on a sliding scale. During the first month of work, the person pays 15% of their income; the second month, 25%; thereafter, 35%, but never exceeding $250. Residents also participate in a savings plan.
COPE partners with people who have home plans with family, as well as those accepted into transitional housing. Our staff and teams provide money and transportation to get a birth certificate, state ID and Social Security card. At the start of the partnership, we also provide food and clothing. While COPE team members usually are not licensed counselors, they do offer emotional support, encouragement, preparation for job interviews, and social relationships, teaching their partners what “normal” looks like. In particular, the teams help with decision-making and long-range planning, helping their partners evaluate the outcome.
COPE staff and teams also teach other basic skills: budgeting, saving, house-keeping, cooking, use of appliances, St. Louis geography, bus routes and map-reading.
After eight months, the resident moves to independent housing. The team helps furnish the apartment and stays in touch during those first months when the person is on their own. At the end of the year, the partner graduates at a big pot luck celebration. Often, teams remain friendly with their partners, and some partners even become members of the teams themselves.
Project COPE is a small program. We can work with about 50 people a year, but we get at least 300 letters of inquiry. Do write if you would like to be considered and know that we will do our best to respond and to accept you if we can.
Project COPE (Congregation Offender Partnership Enterprise) provides community re-entry support for ex-offenders through faith-based and other community team partnerships and transitional housing.
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