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Prison chaplain witness to deep need for housing
December 16, 2015

By Kris Berggren | At Ending Homelessness Together last month John Fritz shared his experience of homelessness starting when he was just 16. A tough family situation caused him to leave home and started a long period of drifting, “flying signs” on street corners, and repeated stints in treatment and jail. He eventually spent more than half his adult life homeless.

“The felony on my record made it a real struggle to find housing even after I got sober and started taking care of myself,” John said.

At the same luncheon the Rev. Marchelle Hallman, a prison chaplain (pictured above, right), said she has witnessed that struggle many times. She explained to the full house in the Minneapolis Convention Center ballroom that even if someone is due to be released from prison, and even when they have worked hard to reclaim their lives and take responsibility for themselves they can’t leave if they don’t have housing.

“I’ve often heard: ‘Chaplain, I’m going to be continued,’ meaning that they will have to remain in prison longer than expected – because they have no home to go to.  All that they have worked for and all the growth that they have experienced and all the strength that they have gained begins to waiver,” said Rev. Hallman.

The stories of the men she meets and of people like John are why she knows Beacon’s Great River Landing is a critical need. She knows it will be a lifesaver not only for men leaving prison but for their families.

For John, everything changed when he moved into Beacon’s American House. He has stayed sober for 6 years, regained his health, moved into his own apartment and reconnected with his children and grandchildren.

“Unfortunately there are others out there today who are experiencing homelessness as I once did - and they could use supportive housing as a stepping stone to building their futures,” John said.  

“That is why I support so strongly the work that Beacon is doing to develop more youth housing like 66 West and Prior Crossing – and Great River Landing for people who have a big obstacle to stable housing because of a criminal conviction. I am here because you believed in me, and I believe in Beacon.”

Want more? You can watch these short videos of Keith’s story, and Ronald’s story. Each has served a sentence and is now participating in the employment and housing program of Better Futures, Beacon’s service partner at Great River Landing.