Program to help former offenders to receive $50,000 in 2016-17 budget

Program to help former offenders to receive $50,000 in 2016-17 budget
July 07
18:15 2016



With murder and other violent crimes on the rise in Winston-Salem, last month City Council members voted to set aside $50,000 in the 2016-17 budget for the Successful Outcomes After Release (SOAR), a program designed to help ex-offenders find gainful employment through training.

The increase in funds follows a roundtable discussion held by City Council Member James Taylor to discuss the city’s recent increase in homicides. Seven months into the year, 14 homicides have been committed in Winston-Salem. According to representatives with the police department, if the trend continues, the number of homicides will double the amount reported the last two years.

Taylor, who spearheaded SOAR in 2014, said in order to put an end to senseless violence, all community stake-holders have to come together. He also announced the formation of a committee of leaders who would create an action plan to help put an end to senseless violence.

“We have to build a plan to decease violence in our community,” said Taylor. “Together we will decide how to move forward and make this city a safer place.”

He also noted the need for more opportunities for ex-offenders, which is where SOAR comes in.

SOAR program participants are initially assigned temporary positions in a number of various city departments for six months. While learning specialized skills and train-ing, participants are also provided with additional life skills training via lectures, group discussions, and other activities. At the end of the initial six-month period, based on their performance, participants are recommended for an additional six months where they will receive additional training.

With the help of the committee, Taylor also called for more youth programs and summer job opportunities.

Two weeks after the roundtable discussion held at City Hall where dozens of community members presented different ways to stop the violence, Taylor announced via social media post that additional funds had been added to the proposed city’s budget to combat the concerns of the residents.

“It’s only been two weeks since our town hall meeting, but we already have an additional $100,000 added to the proposed city budget,” he said. “We will continue to work together to decrease violence and promote progress in our community.”

Assistant City Manager Ben Rowe, who is responsible for budget evaluation, noted in an email that in addition to the $50,000 being added for SOAR, another $50,000 in contingency funds would be added for future grants for youth and summer programs.

Mayor Allen Joines said the increase in funding for SOAR is just the first of many steps by city officials to help stop the violence and reassure the people that everyone has the opportunity to succeed. He also mentioned other agencies that provide similar services will be reviewed in coming months and may also receive funding.

“There has already been some action taken already,” said Joines. “There will be other specific recommendations that we have not dealt with, but we look forward to supporting other programs as we look towards the future.

“A number of people in the community expressed the need for additional dollars, so we decided to set aside funds to help those who want to address these issues.”

For more information on SOAR process and/or policies, visit the city of Winston-Salem official website,

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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