Two Kent County nonprofits that work to help former prisoners re-enter society will be able to continue their respective missions, thanks in part to sizable grants from the Delaware Criminal Justice Council.

Two Kent County nonprofits that work to help former prisoners re-enter society will be able to continue their respective missions, thanks in part to sizable grants from the Delaware Criminal Justice Council.

Dover Interfaith Mission for Housing and Victims’ Voices Heard will collectively receive $157,900 in federal Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants.

The federal grant funding is administered locally by the 30-year-old council, which is chaired by Lt. Gov. Matt Denn.

The Kent County groups are among seven organizations in Delaware that will receive a total of $501,079 in Byrne Grants this year.



Dover Interfaith Mission for Housing received $97,900 to provide shelter and employment to homeless men and recently-released prisoners, said Jeanine Kleimo, who chairs the organization’s board of directors.

“In Delaware, there is a high rate of recidivism,” Kleimo said. “As you might imagine, that is because nobody really wants to deal with people who have been in prison. They don’t want to hire them or give them a place to live. They would rather that they disappear, so without access to housing and jobs [former prisoners] are likely to commit crimes again and go back to prison, so we are working on that.”

Dover Interfaith Mission for Housing has been taken in men who have been released from prison at its downtown Dover shelter since 2008.

But a portion of the new Byrne Grant funding will allow the shelter’s intake coordinator to now begin working with inmates at James T. Vaughn Correctional Facility in Smyrna prior to their release, Kleimo said.

“If we can go in and say ‘Okay, you’re going to come out in three or four months, let’s start to get to know you and think about what life might be like outside prison. That might mean a place in our shelter. It might mean living with family for a while. And we can work with you to help you get a job,’” she said. “Starting earlier will, we’re hoping, be able to increase the impact.”

Dover Interfaith Mission for Housing currently runs almost entirely on volunteer support, with the exception of two social workers. Kleimo said some of the funding will allow the organization to hire a job developer tasked with assisting recently-released male prisoners find employment.

The grant also will be used to cover the expenses of running the organization’s resource center, which will be housed in a donated double-wide trailer currently under renovation. The resource center will offer staff and volunteers a private place to work and have private conversations with the men they serve, she said.

The grant is a big deal for the nonprofit, said Herb Konowitz, the vice chair of the Dover Interfaith Mission for Housing’s board of directors.

“This is the largest grant we’ve ever received,” he said. “This will allow us to do so much more than we could do without the money. We’ll be able to get professional people to help out volunteers. That’s a big thing.”



Victims’ Voices Heard received $60,000 in funding through the Byrne grant that will be used to support three programs in correctional facilities throughout the state, all of which are aimed at assisting victims, teaching offenders empathy and reducing gun violence, according to Kim Book, the nonprofit’s executive director.

Book started the organization in 2002 with the primary goal of providing a victim offender dialogue program, which would give the victims of violent crimes an opportunity to meet face-to-face with their assailants.

Book said formed the organization after losing her 17-year-old daughter to a violent crime in 1997.

Victims’ Voices Heard has since grown to include programs in five institutions throughout the state, including “Listen and Learn,” which is designed to help violent offenders develop a sense of empathy for victims. The organization’s third program is called “Stand Down: Courage to Change.”

“The point of that is to create a working group of young men who are going to be back on streets soon to help them end the violence up in Wilmington,” she said.

The program pairs 15 young men between the ages of 18 and 25 with a rehabilitated ex-offender for a year of mentoring.

It cost $20,000 to run each of these programs and the grant funding that the organization received will be used to fund “Listen and Learn” at two institutions and “Stand Down” at one institution, Book said.

“It was wonderful [to receive the grant] because I can’t do this work unless I have it funds,” she said. “If I don’t have the funding, I can’t run this so we are putting 360 participants through the program each year.”