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Sunday January 17th

Durham's Straight Talk Support Group celebrates five years with new transition house

Photo courtesy of Bessie Elmore.
Buy Photos Photo courtesy of Bessie Elmore.

Straight Talk Support Group, an organization founded to ease the process of reentry into society for persons who have been incarcerated, will celebrate its 5th anniversary on Saturday. The celebration will be held at 1101 N. Magnum St. in Durham from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Straight Talk was founded by Bessie Elmore in 2013, after she saw the numerous societal difficulties her son experienced after being released from prison.

“I have a pretty good idea of what reentry means, and I have an opportunity now to give back to all the things I received to help my son with this situation,” Elmore said.

Since the organization's beginning in 2013, it has grown to provide resources like counseling and peer discussions. Straight Talk also offers many resources specifically crafted for the friends and family of people who were incarcerated. 

Along with the 5th anniversary, the organization is celebrating the opening of the Straight Talk Support Group Transition House. The house opened March 5 and provides housing, food, job readiness training, life skills workshops and case management tools for up to one year. It currently has four residents but is equipped to hold up to 14 at once.

Residents are referred to the house by the local re-entry council in Durham which will often provide funds to support residents, but they can also pay for it themselves. It costs between $125 and $150 a week to live in the house, depending on the services utilized.

Residents are encouraged to search for jobs, participate in community service and stay active. Elmore made it clear the house is not a hotel or somewhere to lounge — residents need to be actively doing something.

“Whether it be looking for a job, going down to the Criminal Justice Resource Center, getting involved in some of the classes that are offered there, they need to be doing something productive every day,” Elmore said.

Residents are also given a curfew, a wake-up time and are required to sign in and out every time they leave the house. Upon arrival, they are given a detailed handbook outlining the rules and obligations that allow them to voluntarily reside in the house.

"If you feel like this is not a place for you, they’re free to leave anytime they want," Elmore said.

Timothy Burnette is one of the four current residents residing in the transition house.

"I’m doing really good. I’ve got myself a little bit more together," Burnette said. "They are helping me out with a lot of things here that I couldn’t do myself when I was on the street.”

Burnette was imprisoned for 13 years and was homeless for 15 years before he was sentenced.

“After my mother passed away, it was just downhill for me,” Burnette said. “I got down on my knees and prayed to God and said ‘I can’t take this no more’ and He brought me straight here.”

Elmore has been overwhelmed with the support Straight Talk has received from the triangle area since founding the organization in 2013 and is excited about Saturday's anniversary celebration.

“We invite the public to celebrate,” Elmore said. “Drop by, see this home, meet the men we serve and welcome a new community resource to Durham.”

For more information, please visit straighttalksupportgroup.org, or contact Bessie Elmore at stsg2013@gmail.com.

@YesCarlyann

city@dailytarheel.com

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