It was the day before her long awaited release date, Jenny turned up to a Prison Fellowship craft group for the first time and spoke to Pat, a volunteer:
“I don’t think I’ve met you before?”
“No , I keep to myself as much as l can “
“How long do you have to be here?”
“I go out tomorrow”
“Do you have someone to support you and somewhere to go?”
“No, I don’t! I’ve applied for a house for my daughter and myself eight months ago & haven’t heard anything yet.”
Pat’s heart was stirred with compassion for this lovely woman who wanted to get away from the friends of the past whom she felt were responsible for her going to prison.
As she shared her need Pat felt moved to ask her permission to ask praying supporters of Prison Fellowship that God would find her a place and suggested she talk to the chaplain.
She replied, “Yes please! I have an appointment with the chaplain after this class.”
As a result the chaplain, with whom we have great rapport, was able to find support from a local church. Jenny met with the minister, Reverend John Stanley to talk about joining their church in Newtown and Lenah Valley. The conversation with John changed dramatically when Jenny sought his help to find accommodation so that she could live together with her young teenage daughter. Her daughter was living with some friends and was not attending school.
Jenny told John how desperate she felt, ‘I don’t know what I can do, I feel like I should just go back inside. There is no point being out.’
It was clear to John that Jenny was being sensible and trying to get everything in order but it seemed like her life was falling apart.
John had some contacts for accommodation; but the only available place was unsuitable for the mother and young teenage girl. She was determined to rescue her daughter and be a healthy influence for her life.
John then offered to take them into his own home,‘They tried a few different places but it was an easy choice to make, to invite her to stay with us – there was no choice but to give them a safe place to stay.’
Jenny’s first priority once she got out was stability for her and her daughter and regaining access to other children for visitation. Having safe and stable housing was essential for getting back on her feet.
Her goal is to find secure long-term housing for herself and her daughter. Jenny is determined to be a good mother. They have had to work at rebuilding their relationship; Jenny hopes to be able to guide and teach her daughter to make good life choices, and to help her heal them heal from the past.
The mother and daughter have spent much time since her release just playing together, hanging out, watching movies together, and visiting friends. They enjoy going for walks and cooking meals together.
During her time as an inmate, Jenny was involved in gardening in the prison grounds. This has reawakened her horticultural passion and she has been doing gardening at her new temporary home and has become part of a local gardening group.
Please pray for Jenny and her daughter; for their ongoing search for a permanent home and for ongoing post-release support services so that women, especially single mothers and their children, can gain stability in their lives. Please pray for the Prison Fellowship volunteers as they work alongside staff and network churches to meet the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the inmates in their care. Please pray for new ways for Prison Fellowship to assist with finding safe accommodation in Tasmania to help women gain greater independence post-release.