Typically, young prison leavers are placed in cheap, low quality accommodation which can encourage a return to old acquaintances and destructive patterns of behaviour.
Just a short drive from the Message Enterprise Centre is The Oaks, an 10-bedroom house in Wythenshawe, Manchester. Our MEC Building team refurbished the house from top to bottom, ready to welcome in lads who have just come out of prison.
From 2016, The Oaks offers a new home and support for young people as they move towards becoming MEC team members. Most we met in prison, where after hearing the gospel, they turned to Jesus and decided to leave their old ways behind.
Over the last three years, the MEC has helped over 20 of these young people through vocational training and jobs in our four businesses. In that time fewer than 10% have re-offended, and over 70% are now in employment, either with us or elsewhere. Considering over 60% of prison leavers are normally back behind bars within two years, this is a remarkable result.
The Oaks will build on this success, offering a residential support programme lasting up to 24 months, depending on the individual. After an induction, courses will guide new team members into greater emotional stability and deeper faith in Christ. Life skills and coaching will help them become better stewards of their time, finances and relationships. Days will be carefully structured to allow for a balance of vocational work placements, devotions, training and free time.
At the heart of The Oaks is a vision of a Christian community that both supports our team members they rebuild their lives, and blesses the local area.
‘We’ve already seen a lot of success in restoring individuals’ lives through the MEC,’ says Simon Sullivan who, with his wife Jane, leads The Oaks. ‘But the gospel is about more than our personal restoration – it catches us up in God’s project of restoring the whole world. We want more for our team members than to simply work through their issues and leave; we want them to be mobilised to serve others. Put simply, The Oaks is about moving our MEC team members from maintenance to mission.’
We own and maintain 6 additional properties in close proximity to our Centre, which means we can place Team Members in a safe home with a community of like-minded, motivated individuals who will help support them outside of work hours. Alternatively, we have links to other Christian landlords who will offer favourable tenancy agreements to people on our programme.