Local non-profit gets $2 million grant from Mackenzie Scott’s Fund

Prison Outreach

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ROCHESTER, N.Y – A local non-profit that helps men and women leaving jail or prison reintegrate into our community, just got a big boost in funding from philanthropist Mackenzie Scott. The Spiritus Christi Prison Outreach Program was awarded a $2 million dollar grant this week from Scott’s Yield Giving fund. 

Spiritus Christi Prison Outreach (SCPO) is one of 361 small nonprofits, out of more than 6,000 applicants from across the United States, to receive an award. Recipients were chosen based on their ability to serve people and places experiencing the greatest need.

Luther Knight was born and raised in Rochester. His teens and twenties are a bit of a blur.

“Just living a rough and terrifying, traumatizing lifestyle back then,” he recalls. His addiction to drugs and alcohol ruined most of his relationships, including the close bond he shared with his mother. “I can remember one Thanksgiving that I had, I went over there and she handed the plate to me outside on the porch, she wouldn’t let me in and that hurt my heart,” Knight tells News10NBC. 

For years, Knight was stuck in a vicious cycle. “It was all the homeless things, eating out of garbage cans, it was all the things,” he recalls. 

He was eventually arrested and while behind bars, got a visit from the folks at Spiritus Christie Prison Outreach.

“I was ready to let somebody else lead me into the light because I didn’t have no idea, it was foggy, I was coming off of drugs and alcohol, I was getting out of jail,” he says.

It was at one of the SCPO’s transitional homes where Knight was able to get his life back on track.  On Sunday, he celebrated 15 years clean and sober and for the last decade, he’s been working for the very same organization he credits for saving his life. He’s now the one that makes those jail visits to try and reach men and women in need of help. 

Women who are justice-involved can receive transitional housing and support at SCPO’s Jennifer House, and men at Nielsen House. Collectively, the houses serve up to 30 residents at a time and over the past six years, the organization has added dozens of permanent supportive housing units for participants who can live independently. 

“We get a lot of referrals from drug court, mental health court, veterans court so, any kind of criminal justice involvement and homelessness is where we can help,” explains DeShawn McLamore, the Coordinator of Permanent Supportive Housing. 

The grant from Yield Giving Fund will help SCPO’s continue its mission.

“All the work that we can do, we can expand it and I’m really excited,” McLamore says.

In its application for funding, Spiritus Christi Prison Outreach reported a 98% success rate in preventing recidivism, 93% of program participants remained in stable housing, and 90% maintained physical and mental or behavioral health treatment care plans.