VOA Men’s Residential Center Seeks Amendment from ENA to Participate in New STEP Program

On NE MLK at Sacramento, there is a program that you might have never heard of in the Eliot Neighborhood. The Volunteers of America Men’s Residential Program (MRC) is housed there. This program was set up over 20 years ago when voters in Multnomah County voted to fund residential treatment programs for both Men and Women. The Men’s center was an old 50-room hotel that was converted to this use and the director Greg Stone has been running the center this entire time. They have a roughly 70% success rate at discharging clients and have only 1-2 police calls every 5 years (less than once per year).

The main prison system has a 50% reoffending rate, while treatment programs like the MRC have a much higher success rate. As a result, it has the support of DA Mike Schmidt and the Honorable Eric Bloch, a Multnomah County Judge. Judge Bloch and DA Schmidt are working on a relatively new program called STEP which currently exists but does not currently have a residential program. Currently, they have a 0% reoffending rate although as more time passes, all programs have an increasing reoffending rate. This program works by diverting people who would go to prison directly into the residential program. These men are monitored – many had ankle bracelets when I visited the facility with some other neighbors. If someone decides to leave the program, their parole officers are notified and they do not simply disappear into the community.

The Eliot Neighborhood Association has a Good Neighbor Agreement (GNA) with the MRC that stipulates that there is a citizen screening committee that is responsible for reviewing (before intake to the program) prospective clients with charges/history of violence to strangers and non-predatory sex offenders. This agreement has been in place since 1999 and we have not had a history of problems with the MRC. I have been on this committee for the past 10 years. The Eliot NA Board has the ability to change the makeup of this committee, and we recently added my co-Chair, Jimmy Wilson to the screening committee.

Judge Bloch and DA Schmidt have requested that we allow clients to come from this STEP program that are not meeting the current criteria for the program. Specifically, the current rules require clients to have served a year of time before they are admitted to the MRC, but the STEP program is designed to divert people from spending time in prison but instead they would go directly to the MRC if they meet strict screening criteria. The ENA Board will be voting to amend our GNA to allow these clients on a 90-day trial basis at the Monday November 21st meeting.

More information can be found in the many documents of this google drive folder. Please reach out to (chair@eliotneighbrohood.org) or the board (board@eliotneighborhood.org) with any questions or attend the board meeting this coming Monday.

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