The Christian Outreach Center is Part of the Solution to Safer Communities
|June 27, 2011|
HOUSTON – As part of the District’s ongoing Anti-Violence Strategy efforts supporting our law enforcement and community partners in their efforts to make our neighborhoods safer, First Assistant U.S. Attorney (FAUSA) Toni Trevino visited with Executive Director Dr. Shirley Ledet and toured the Christian Outreach Center (COC) today.
The Attorney General’s Anti-Violence Strategy recognizes that investigation and prosecution of crime, crime prevention and prisoner re-entry programs designed to reduce recidivism – a holistic “three-legged stool” approach – is necessary to successfully reduce violent crime and make our communities safer. Today’s visit at the COC is part of the district’s continuing effort to lend its support and assistance to further the crime prevention and re-entry efforts of community outreach programs such as this one.
The COC, in existence since June 2000, is a faith-based program affiliated with the Living Word Fellowship Church. The COC partners with other organizations involved in developing comprehensive programs to positively impact the community they serve. The COC provides a wide array of services to residents in the Antoine - W. Little York area of north Houston.
Dr. Shirley Ledet, the Executive Director of the COC since 2008, oversees the COC’s varied services to traditional clients as well as to probationers supervised by the Harris County Community Supervision and Corrections Department (HCCSCD) which has a satellite office at the COC. Dr. Ledet’s goal is to provide “one-stop shopping” so that clients who have been ordered to receive treatment or counseling as a condition of their probation or as part of their sentence don’t have to search out locations and programs in other parts of the city, but can fulfill their requirements in their own community at the COC. In addition, those who have been ordered to do community service have the opportunity to do their service at the COC. The COC offers a food pantry for residents in their service area, social services and a quarterly legal forum, drug and alcohol recovery programs, as well as education and life skills classes, including anger management and parenting classes. On average, the COC provides these services to an estimated 500 people a month.
Four community supervision officers with the HCCSCD are assigned to the satellite office at the COC. Some of those who are supervised at the site receive guidance and assistance as they attempt to transition back into or reenter society. For example, the HCCSCD partners with the Houston Food Bank to provide offsite job skills training and certifications in forklift operation and repair, warehouse work and culinary arts.
Next month, in a first for the COC, an official graduation ceremony will be held on July 8, 2011, at the Living Word Fellowship Church where approximately 30 students will receive their High School Equivalency Certificates (GEDs). Others will also be recognized for completing life skill classes or for completing their community service requirements in an exemplary manner.
Dr. Ledet, the only full-time staff member of the COC, delivers services with the help of a small staff of volunteers. Commenting upon the impact of the COC, Dr. Ledet said, “The COC is helping people change their world-view: one probationer who worked at the Food Pantry to complete his community service requirement actually hand-picked his successor. Changing people’s character is what the Christian Outreach Center is all about. This is what helps reduce recidivism. ”
During today’s tour, FAUSA Trevino had the opportunity to visit with both Dr. Ledet and Robert Hernandez, one of the community supervision officers, and talk with them about the importance of their work at the COC, especially as it assists their clients to become productive members of the community and to help them understand that they can accomplish great things with their lives, one step at a time.
Upon the conclusion of her visit, FAUSA Trevino said, “Arrests and convictions alone are not the solution to safer communities. The solution lies through a coordinated holistic approach with programs such as that of the Community Outreach Center and its partnership with the HCCSCD developing and delivering services to prevent crime and to motivate and change the character of the ex-offenders to contribute to the community, rather than victimize it.”
Dr. Ledet is very proud of the work the COC is doing but added, “Of course, we could do more and even better work with more funding and more volunteers.”