The Gemeinschaft Home (Harrisonburg, VA)
For this replication, Delancey Street selected an existing traditional halfway house to see if it was possible to transform that model to the Delancey extended family, economic self-sufficiency model.
The Gemeinschaft Home (a German word for community) was founded fifteen years ago by Mennonites, and originally functioned as a traditional halfway house in which residents, all of whom had to first complete a six-month orientation program in prison, entered the Gemeinschaft Home as a vehicle to help them stabilize their life, save money and find a job.
A new dynamic leader, Executive Director Jennie Amison, was not satisfied with the program as it existed. Feeling like six months was not enough to train the men in all the things they would need to be truly successful she visited Delancey Street in San Francisco, and felt she found her answer. She began attending Delancey’s training institute (The Institute for Social Renewal) and received the technical assistance to revamp the Gemeinschaft Home to replicate the Delancey Street model. The challenge was to take a standard therapeutic model with a full professional staff and, over time as resources permitted, change the program into a peer-driven model in which the residents had full participation in the life and welfare of the organization and to add academics, meaningful vocational training and life skills. To date, the Gemeinschaft Home has:
- Opened a business training school, the Gemeinschaft Auto Detailing Business;
- Replaced through natural attrition professional staff with men who had first been residents of the program;
- Instituted the practice of “each one, teach one” and “learning by doing” in which all residents are responsible for teaching and holding accountable all those who come behind them, and in which every resident has an important role to play that contributes to the health of the whole while also teaching valuable skills;
- Developed relationships with academic institutions so that the men can get their GED’s and, eventually, pursue college degrees;
- Acquired two properties in which men that complete the six-month program can move into a longer-term program and complete goals such as finish vocational training or academic programs, pay off loans and fines, and establish adequate savings.
Gemeinschaft has won awards for its excellent record of helping men exiting prison make a successful transition into the working world.
Dalby, Nick. "Gemeinschaft Job Dream Come True." Daily News-Record 15 Jul. 2001.
Wright, Dan. “Gemeinschaft Home Lands Grant For Rehab Program,” Daily News-Record 21 Nov. 2003.
"Making a Difference," WHSV
TV13, Harrisonburg, VA (12/20/02)