Dismas House of Nashville: Providing Life Skills

Providing a system for personal transformation and growth as formerly incarcerated men transition back to society.

Host Jeremy C. Park talks with LoLita Toney, Vice President of Development for Dismas House of Nashville, who shares some of the history for the organization, their efforts as a re-entry facility offering a comprehensive and holistic array of services, their Four Pillars, and goal to reduce recidivism by removing the largest barrier for formerly incarcerated men first, which is immediate access to food, shelter and clothing upon their release. During the interview, Toney also highlights their recent expansion project, how the pandemic has impacted their efforts, stories of success, how they foster community, how to help the organization, and more.

  1. What is Dismas House of Nashville?
  • Dismas was founded 46 years ago by a Vanderbilt University chaplain Father Jack Hickey who had a vision to bring students together with formerly incarcerated men to live together and learn from one another.
  • Dismas House is a re-entry facility offering a comprehensive and holistic array of services encapsulated by our “Four Pillars,” which are 1) basic needs, 2) health and well-being, 3) life skills, and 4) legal support. Our goal is to reduce recidivism by removing the largest barrier for formerly incarcerated men first which is immediate access to food, shelter, and clothing upon their release.
  • We recently completed a $12 million expansion project building a 24,000 square foot campus with 72 beds and affordable housing units at 2424 Charlotte Avenue.
  • With Dismas’ new expanded facility we expect to serve at minimum 150 men a year with 56 program beds and 16 transitional housing units.
  1. What is the mission of Dismas?
  • The mission of Dismas House of Nashville is to foster community awareness and understanding of the challenges and obstacles formerly incarcerated men face upon reentry by providing a system for personal transformation and growth as they transition back to society.
  • As a Tennessee re-entry provider, it is Dismas’ vision that residents remain free and become self-sufficient, contributing members of society. We do that by making communities stronger and reuniting families.
  • We offer Four Pillars of Programming to serve the needs of our residents: Basic Needs, Health & Well-Being, Life Skills and Legal Support.
  1. How has COVID-19 impacted Dismas?
  • The pandemic has affected the prison population increasing Dismas’ program applications and shortening release time for new arrivals. In the first four months of operation, we have already served as many men as we would in a typical year.
  • Dismas conducted a house blessing and dedication of its Career Center sponsored by Comcast and the Urban League of Nashville to provide 20 laptops for residents.
  • The laptops have made it possible for residents to safely receive programming during COVID-19 including life skills, health and wellness, group therapy, 12-steps, personalized mental health counseling and seek employment.
  • Dismas received a grant from the Tennessee Community CARES Program to address health and economic needs created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Funds will go to groceries, COVID-19 personal use items, additional cleaning and janitorial supplies and upgrades to IT infrastructure to accommodate the shift to online programming for residents.
  1. How can people support Dismas?
  • One of the best ways to get to know Dismas and its residents is to volunteer to host a community dinner at the house.
  • We have groups from universities, churches and other community organizations who volunteer Monday – Thursday to bring dinner for residents.
  • We have time for fellowship and you can learn all about our programs and how to get involved. You can sign up on our website at dismas.org.

Learn more:
Twitter:                  https://twitter.com/dismasnashville
Website:                https://www.dismas.org/
Instagram:             https://www.instagram.com/nashvilledismashouse/
Facebook:             https://www.facebook.com/DismasNashville

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