FAIRFIELD — The faith-based Rays of Hope program at Mission Solano looks to take men who have been released from prison and get them prepared to re-enter society.
Leading the program is the perfect job for Gene Ahu, who spent 16 years in the prison system. Ahu said he can relate with those who enter the program and that he knows what they are going through. He’s been program manager for eight years.
“We’ll take anyone. We have a forgiving God,” Ahu said. “If we didn’t, I wouldn’t be behind this desk.”
That desk is full of letters from inmates who have heard of the program and contacted Ahu about enrolling upon release. He said an application is sent back to find out more from the inmate to see if they will fit.
Once someone inquires about entering the program and there is room, they are asked to volunteer to see how they interact and behave. If everything seems to fit, they are admitted for what is typically a six- to nine-month stay.
“I’m not putting you in the program until you show me something,” Ahu said. “You have to show you want to be here.”
Rays of Hope doesn’t cost the resident anything and is funded by donations to Mission Solano.
A 30-day blackout period comes next. Family members may visit the site, but program members can’t leave to visit. All phones are taken away. The only way someone can leave the grounds is if they are with a graduate or doing an activity for Mission Solano.
They are admitted to the house, located at the Rescue Mission Community Outreach Center at 740 Travis Blvd. Up to 10 men can stay there at a time, each given a certain task.
The men are expected to take part in dependency meetings, Bible studies and a recovery meeting a few times a week. Eventually they are given jobs and tasks within the organization.
“All it takes is the will to make it,” Ahu said. “These guys are in a safe house. It doesn’t get any better.”
Public assistance is offered for three months traditionally, Ahu said. That can change depending on the individual situation. There are also instances where men in the program may be able to find work outside the program.
Half of any money earned by someone in the program is given to Mission Solano to put in an account. That money is given back upon graduation, Ahu said.
“I want them to have something when they leave,” he said.
Reach Danny Bernardini at 427-6935 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/dbernardinidr.