Volunteer-Led “Coming Home” Program at First Pres/Hillside

Long-time GJP partners, First Presbyterian and Hillside Presbyterian Churches recently launched a Coming Home Project to serve the clients of church-based ministries. Their Coming Home project was based on Georgia Justice Project’s program of the same name, helping those who’ve had contact with the criminal justice system move on with their lives by understanding, correcting, and expunging criminal records.

The churches recruited lawyers and paralegals from their membership who were interested in using their legal skills to help folks served through the church ministries. These volunteers then came to Georgia Justice Project for training on how to read a criminal record, what the laws are around expungement and how to make changes when they are called for. A recent update from the lead volunteer at First Presbyterian indicates that the project is off to a great start. They have:

  • Engaged active volunteers in the churches’ homeless ministries to identify potential clients who need relief from the effects of past criminal justice encounters;
  • Created a form and process to survey the dozens of people who come through the churches’ doors every week to screen for new potential clients;
  • Raised $850 to cover administrative filing fees for our clients.

They have also learned that identifying appropriate clients for this service takes time and effort. Unfortunately, many people do not qualify to have things expunged from their records – no matter how long ago the crime occurred and how well they’ve been doing since.  (GJP is working to address this very issue through our policy efforts.)

GJP is delighted that these First Presbyterian and Hillside parishioners (and lawyers) were inspired by GJP’s work and wanted to learn from it to serve the clients of their homeless ministries. GJP currently offers two trainings for other groups who may be similarly motivated. Check with Willie Bolden, GJP’s volunteer coordinator, to find out more.