Since the beginning of the new year, Damascus Way has made programming a priority across our sites. Defining what “programming” actually means to us and what it includes is an area we are focused on in 2022. In simple terms, programming refers to components of our organization that focus on the individuals who come to one of our Damascus Way sites for any length of time. During a man’s stay at Damascus, it is our hope and belief that outer holistic success (a steady and valuable job, meaningful community support and next step housing opportunities) will coincide with inner, spiritual and mental transformation. The bedrock of any transformation begins with the provision of basic human needs (shelter, food, security, stability) which in turn allows for growth in other areas (love, belonging and self-esteem). This is why, over and over again, Damascus Way reiterates the value of our threefold service model (Housing Pathways, Employment/Career Readiness and Community Connection). Once progress or success is made in these areas, an individual has the structure and stability necessary to work towards growth in addressing trauma, addiction and criminogenic behaviors. Another example of addressing these needs has come in the form of job training. Our Golden Valley campus recently hosted a group of trainees from O4C (“Opportunity for Change”), who provided insight on counseling programs, job fairs and job training opportunities. O4C offers step-by-step job placement assistance throughout the entire application process (including job search, resumes and interview preparation). Partners like this are what make Damascus Way a leader in reentry services, particularly when it comes to employment opportunities.

At Damascus Way, it our desire to address both the spiritual and physical needs of our residents, because a human being can only prosper and flourish when body, mind and soul are attended to. So in addition to our three service focus areas, our Spiritual Assessment forms and ISP plans encourage and incentivize new program participants to think beyond economic and recidivistic barriers, to the internal habits of the mind and the spirit. Even if an individual is not a follower of Jesus or is curious about what faith means, we still hope that they can gain a newfound appreciation for deeper introspection and self-awareness about their relationship with themselves and with others. We advocate for the participation and engagement with fellow Christians for those who want to deepen their walk with God or to open up a new chapter by inviting Jesus into their life. Oftentimes residents find themselves joining a church community, a bible study or some other form of ministry, where mentors and others with shared stories and experiences can join together in the pursuit of spiritual growth, healing and freedom. Each of our sites host bible studies led either by staff, volunteers or a combination of both. This week, our Golden Valley site reintroduced a weekly bible study on Tuesday afternoons which meet for an hour or so. Jordan Nelson, a pastor in North Minneapolis and our new program director at the Golden Valley site, will co-lead these bible studies with a former resident. Spaces like these provide ample room for rich discussion on the nature of Scripture and the tenets of our faith and how to apply them to day to day life. They allow for prudent and vulnerable conversations about life, pain, hopes and dreams. This afternoon bible study will create a space for residents who work overnight shifts or stay home during the days to feel a sense of community.

While another weekly on-site bible study may seem like a small thing to celebrate, it is precisely these kinds of things that create an impetus for change and deeper connection amongst our residents and the staff. As we seek to expand and enrich our programming department, we celebrate steps like this.

In May we are planning to launch on-site Sunday morning services at our Golden Valley campus! Stay tuned for more details on that!