Committed to fostering Engaged Buddhism by collaborating with other sanghas, Portland’s Buddhist Peace Fellowship has joined with Dharma Rain Zen Center to participate in the program Home for Good in Oregon (HGO.)
Administered by the Religious Services division of the Oregon Department of Corrections, Home for Good is a statewide community and faith-based re-entry program designed to support ex-prisoners and the communities they return to. Headed by a full-time DOC re-entry chaplain, it consists of a network of community chaplains and organizations who train and supervise teams of volunteers. The program is voluntary for prisoners anticipating release and does not require a particular religious or spiritual commitment. Currently there are about 35 community chaplains around the state, but no Buddhists. Yet.
In July, BPF Portland hosted a gathering to listen to a recording of BPF leader Alan Senauke and then discuss the Coming Home Initiative, a project for ex-prisoners begun by BPF in the San Francisco Bay Area. The gathering attracted several members of Dharma Rain Zen Center already involved in DRZC’s longstanding prison program, and collaboration was born. The attendees agreed that the next BPF get-together would focus on support for the formerly incarcerated, but the emphasis would be on what can be done in Oregon.
Besides Dharma Rain and BPF, several other groups were represented at an informational meeting on Home for Good held in September. The next step is for individuals to work through the HGO modules (homework) posted on the Home for Good website. Plans are in progress to set up a gathering for people to do the modules together. (See bpfportland.blogspot.com for updates.) Once there are at least five people who have completed the modules and made a commitment to take the training, Home for Good will arrange with the group to set up a training day.
HGO volunteers draw upon personal skills. Some may want an extended transition relationship, which could last about 18 months. Others may want to participate as community chaplains, more in the role of a leader and coordinator. Some may want to help with practical needs such as transportation, making appointments, etc. The more volunteers who participate, the more options there are for providing transition support.
As one experienced Home for Good volunteer said, “The biggest thing you can do is to be there, supporting them."
Both DRZC and BPF Portland recognize that Buddhist participation in HGO will be stronger if it is multi-tradition and invite all interested Buddhists to join in this Mahasangha effort. You may request more information by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.bpfportland.com.
Contributor: Heidi Enji Hoogstra