Byron's House of Hope has opened at PATH campus

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FARMINGTON — Organizers of a local nonprofit organization that has worked for the past seven years to provide support and accountability for men emerging from correctional facilities will be celebrating its move to a physical headquarters with an event on Tuesday.

Byron's House of Hope, located at the People Assisting the Homeless campus at 520 Hydro Plant Road in Farmington, is a project of Convicted by Christ, a faith-based group that began offering services in the community in 2011. The organization works to help men who have recently gotten out of jail or prison free themselves from their addictions, past life patterns and mental instabilities as they become reintegrated into healthy lives, families and communities, according to the group's spokeswoman, Pat Gross.

The organization is leasing a portion of the PATH building for a transitional living program and will celebrate the opening of those quarters with a come-and-go session for supporters from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Tuesday.

CBC began its work seven years ago by holding evening group meetings for former inmates. Those initial sessions drew three or four men, a number that has grown to 20 to 30 over time and necessitated the need for a physical home for the organization.

"One of the things we have discovered is that just because a person has been released from prison, that does not necessarily mean they are ready to transition back into society," Gross said, explaining the need for the organization's services.

That means that former inmates in some locations stand up to a 60 percent change of returning to prison within a year, she said. CBC aims to greatly reduce that figure in San Juan County by providing structure to the lives of those men in the form of support, encouragement and, perhaps most important, demanding accountability from them in the form of staying sober and remaining out of jail.

Byron's House of Hope directs its clients to support services, assists in finding them jobs, teaches financial management and offers various classes in life skills. Gross said the men who become involved in the program must meet a strict set of criteria — they cannot have committed a violent or sex-oriented offense, for instance — and can remain in the program for six months.

The organization has not compiled any statistics on how the recidivism rate of its clients compares to that of the general population of recent parolees, but Gross said the group can point to many success stories among the men who have completed the program.

"A couple of them have gone on to college, a couple have found good jobs and a couple of them actually serve on the board (of directors)," she said. "Healthy, good things are happening."

When CBC was formed seven years ago, no one envisioned the need for a bricks-and-mortar structure. But Gross said as the organization has grown, the need for the service it provides has increased.

"This was not the goal," she said, referring to the opening of Byron's House of Hope. "But it became very evident after a while (that such a facility was needed). They're still very much an at-risk population. Many of them start using again or commit another crime and end up back in jail."

Participants in the program are required to find a job after three months, abide by a strict curfew and avoid all drug and alcohol use. Up to six men at a time can receive services at Byron's House of Hope.

"Inmates are used to a lot of structure, and so there is structure in this," Gross said.

The program, which has earned the approval of the Probation & Parole Division of the New Mexico Department of Corrections, has received assistance from PATH, the Four Corners Foundation and the city of Farmington. Call 505-592-1180 or visit convictedbychrist.org for more information.

Mike Easterling is the night editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4610.

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