By Bolupe Ogunyooye and Ann McCauley
Journey to New Life (JTNL), a non-profit organization that has served the Kansas City area for 10 years by facilitating the reentry process for those exiting prison back into general society, was designated as a Recovery Friendly Workplace on December 13, 2023. JTNL is the third entity to receive a Recovery Friendly Workplace designation in the metropolis, and the 25th statewide to be designated.
Bolupe Ogunyooye, an Extension Field Specialist in Community Health, presented the certificate to a JTNL staff member during an all-staff meeting. Kathleen Kennedy, JTNL Executive Director, shared, “Journey to New Life is so grateful to be designated as a Recovery Friendly Workplace because each day, our non-profit is co-led by people with a history of substance use disorder who demonstrate the power of supporting one another in recovery.”
JTNL assists 90-100 ‘returning persons’ yearly by providing them with a temporary shelter (up to 12 months), employment services, reentry case management, and emergency assistance. One staff member echoed the sentiments of the Recovery Friendly Workplace vision when she said, “There are no throwaway people! Supporting people on their recovery journey, has allowed our non-profit to succeed and we have all learned so much – TOGETHER.”
Journey to New Life is a great example of a program that walks the walk and talks the talk. The program’s goal is for the entire staff to have justice involved experiences someday. It employs 17 people, and nine of them have served time in prison. The organization was founded in 2013 in response to a lack of services for people reentering society after prison, especially those who had been incarcerated many years and have a history of substance use disorder or mental illness. They also offer services to homeless veterans. They have several homes for women exiting prison to help them build a bridge between prison and permanent housing, and offer case management, employment assistance, and post residency support.
One employee summed it up well when she said, “When we support people in recovery, we live our mission! And our organization has thrived!”
“People who are stigmatized and labeled as problems, when supported in their recovery journey, become leaders.”-Journey to a New Life Employee