About Us / History
Project RETURN (Returning Ex-incarcerated people To Urban Realities and Neighborhoods) exists to help men and women make a positive, permanent return to community, family and friends.
In 1980, Cross Lutheran Church brought together interested parties to consider the challenge of high recidivism in Milwaukee. As a result, Project RETURN was formed in 1981, and for nearly 40 years has walked alongside ex-incarcerated people providing assistance with employment, housing, and encouragement to change lives and the community.
Services offered by Project RETURN
Project RETURN’s staff collectively have over 65 years of service to our clients with the organization. Programs offered address direct needs of those we serve, reducing barriers to increase the prospects of success and lower the chances of recidivism.
Often, people come to Project RETURN at a time of crisis—not looking beyond their immediate needs. Our experienced staff members—most of whom are formerly incarcerated individuals—work one-on-one with clients, helping them to navigate through the crisis moment and then to look beyond that situation to “next steps.”
Clients can sign up for our programs by contacting the offices or just stopping by on a Tuesday or Thursday morning between 9:00 am and Noon.
Finding stable employment is a priority to most people returning from incarceration. Employment provides purpose as well as an income. Project RETURN helps our clients with their employment search. Whether it be discussing employment goals to creating a resume to finding job leads to preparing individuals for interviews, Project RETURN walks with each individual on this path to self-sustainability.
Along the way, Project RETURN assists clients with clothing, specialty work tools, transportation, and employment training opportunities. All this is done on an individual basis to help the individual get from where they are to where they want to be.
Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse (AODA) Counseling
Project RETURN offers three AODA Support Groups on a weekly basis. Two of these groups (Tuesdays 5:30-7:00 and Fridays 6:00 to 7:30) are held at our offices while the third group is held at a minimum security prison in Milwaukee. These groups are all facilitated by Clem Richardson, a Certified Substance Abuse Counselor with over two decades of experience providing AODA treatment and support counseling.
Individuals can be referred into the program by the Department of Corrections or self-refer themselves into the group. To enroll, please contact Teri Woodley at our offices.
A major issue facing individuals returning from incarceration is housing. Too many people return home only to find they don’t know where that is. Project RETURN works with landlords to open up housing opportunities to our clients who are in need.
Circles of Support
In 2018 Project RETURN added a new element to our programming—one that has been proven to reduce recidivism rates in other communities both in the U.S. and in Canada. Circles of Support are small groups that meet regularly to provide a stable, supportive network to men and women returning from incarceration.
Members of each circle include formerly incarcerated people, a trained circle keeper, and community volunteers. Through a structured process, members grow with each other, learn from one another, and help the community heal from the trauma experienced through poverty and crime.
Circles have started at three locations: St. Ben’s Parish, Project RETURN’s offices, and Hephatha Lutheran Church. Additional sites have expressed interest in hosting circles in 2019.
Alumni Support Group
The Alumni Support Group meets every Tuesday at 5:00 pm. This is a re-entry support group facilitated and attended by those who have experienced incarceration and extended supervision. The purpose of this group is to address the immediate needs of each participant in a safe and supportive atmosphere.
Too often those returning from incarceration do not have a positive support network and do not know who they can express the struggles they are facing. The Alumni Group provides that supportive atmosphere that is sorely lacking in many people’s lives.
Women's Support Group
Similar, to the Alumni Group, The Women’s Support Group focuses entirely on issues facing women who have returned from incarceration. Women face unique issues, often in silence. The Women’s Support Group is held every Tuesday afternoon with a meal beginning at 12:30 pm.
Project RETURN takes the services outlined above into the community to work with faith communities and other civic organizations. This is important as there are many natural and perceived boundaries in Milwaukee that impede the individual to make it to our offices. By coming into the community, Project RETURN and the host sites show that they are committed to re-entry and in helping the individual to become a success.
Project RETURN is also active in advocacy efforts in an attempt to open more opportunities for our clients to be successful. Many times this comes in the form of advocacy for policy change in various government institutions. Project RETURN has partnered with many community based organizations to create positive change in our community for those who have experienced incarceration.