REAL LIFE serves individuals who have been affected by incarceration, homelessness or substance use disorder by giving them an opportunity to overcome personal and community barriers that hinder their pathway to a thriving life. It also engages the community to bring awareness to the needs of “Lifers,” called so because they are helped to make life-long change in all aspects of life.
Inspired and sustained by the concerns of members at Second Presbyterian Church in Richmond, Virginia, REAL LIFE’s mission is to develop a personal relationship with each Lifer. The congregation has partnered with the work by providing a spiritual home for Lifers and hosting congregation-wide drives to stock recovery transitional houses. Members of the church volunteer as mentors with Lifers and donate needed household goods and other key resources. The church has also welcomed staff and graduates of REAL LIFE to speak about its work and substance use disorder, taking this information into the community to bring awareness to the needs of an often forgotten population.
“I have been a part of a team of men at the end of their careers who meet with men living as a community in a REAL LIFE house one evening a week for a month,” said Second Presbyterian member Jeff Gallagher. “We provide dinner, fellowship, insights and interaction about employment, career and life planning. In turn, they share their stories, ask for practical employment information and advice as we look ahead to build realistic dreams for themselves. These men face enormous challenges as they get out of prison, many of their own making, and way too many caused by the system we have put in place and allow to continue. Perhaps our insights are helpful – definitely by breaking bread, sharing a prayer, returning dependably for a few weeks, remembering one another’s names and sharing our stories, we help by letting these individuals know that some stranger really cares about whether they make it.”
REAL LIFE’s comprehensive in-house approach includes developing an individualized plan based on a Lifer’s recovery capital. It identifies services each Lifer needs to decrease their individual risk factors of re-offending, re-using substance(s) or re-engaging in unhealthy behaviors. Services include intensive case management, classes, employment and education support, housing and more.
Learn more about REAL LIFE by visiting us at reallifeprogram.org or on social media.