Better Futures Minnesota Helps Turn Lives Around

An integrated network of housing and services to help men with histories of substance abuse, mental illness, and incarceration change their lives - A Progress Report

On 4/15/2013 The Network for Better Futures changed its name to Better Futures Minnesota

Dates of Project/Program: December 2007 to February 2014

Field of Work: Integrating vulnerable men into the community

Problem Synopsis: Men served by Better Futures Minnesota, a project of Better Futures Enterprises in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis and St. Paul) are typically isolated, living on the fringes of society, and cycling through costly and fragmented public services and institutions, including emergency rooms, detox centers, substance abuse treatment programs, and jails and prisons. They are also men who need support to realize their own value and take steps to turn their lives around. Attempts to reduce spending on this population have mostly failed because service systems are fragmented and inefficient.

Synopsis of the Work: Better Futures Minnesota is designed to transform the lives of at risk, primarily African-American men. Working with eight nonprofit partners in the Twin Cities, the model offers an integrated package of services that includes safe and affordable housing, job training and work opportunities, access to primary care and behavioral health services, and community-building. The organization also has a business venture that provides work opportunities for participants while generating revenue for the organization.

The "we're-there-for-you" approach targets previously incarcerated men who are willing to make the commitment to turn their lives around. For Sam, who was incarcerated at 18 and released at 21, the tools and support have helped him to grow up. "Before I came in prison I was a little boy. Now I'm working through Better Futures, I feel like I'm becoming a man."

Key Results: Better Futures has served more than 600 participants so far. Project staff report that:

  • Every dollar invested in the program produces up to $4 in taxes and child support paid by participants, and in savings from reduced criminal behavior, homelessness, and use of social services.
  • Some 87–90 percent of the men living in housing financed by Better Futures are employed or in school, compared with 25–30 percent among similar men outside the program.
  • Among men who stay with Better Futures at least 90 days, about 9 percent return to prison within three years because of new felony convictions, compared with state recidivism rates of 26 percent.
  • Among men who stay with Better Futures at least 90 days, about 9 percent return to prison within three years because of new felony convictions, compared with state recidivism rates of 26 percent.
  • About 90 percent of the men have health insurance, primarily Medicaid.

 

Most of society looks at former prisoners as “throwaway individuals…but we look at them as men who can get back on their feet through their energies and efforts to become better men.”—Judge Pamela G. Alexander, president, Council on Crime and Justice

Better Futures Minnesota is transforming the lives of at-risk African American men in Minneapolis

Whatever we do needs to be grounded in this notion of trauma-informed care: healing hurt people.”—Steven G. Thomas, Project Director

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