The Departure Lounge in HMP Doncaster is a new revolutionary way of delivering through the gate resettlement services. When a person leaves HMP Doncaster, the Departure Lounge provides a place for them to go and prepare for life back in the community. There are specialist advisers on hand to guide them through housing, benefits, probation and work applications, as well as assisting with basics such as travel from the prison.
Chloe, one of our resettlement advisors, writes below about working there.
In our Departure Lounge, based in the foyer of Doncaster prison, a quarter of the people we help leaving prison are facing homelessness and over a third face financial support needs. It is no surprise that time and time again the service is described as ‘vital’. We support men leaving the prison to find housing, health support, apply for benefits, reconnect with family, and source employment or training.
In my role as a resettlement advisor, I greet our service users and support them on the day of release regardless of how big or small their support need is. We might spend three hours with some service users, others will just need a chat and a friendly face to remind them that they are ready to be back in the community. There is excitement in the air about being released, but often also a lingering anxiety: where do I go? How do I get on the right track? So our Departure Lounge also acts as a safe space to process these emotions.
Alongside ensuring they get the necessary support, a large part of my role involves outreach to the many partner organisations we work with. Our success stories rely heavily on the support and donations we receive from other organisations. Like the food parcels provided by Doncaster food bank; being able to provide service users with a food package means they are prepared for the day of release and beyond.
Clothing poverty and prison
It is surprising how many people are released from prison wearing unsuitable footwear, like slippers and sliders (one example in the photo above), or inappropriate clothing for the season (going into prison in summer and leaving in winter). Being able to provide service users with clean, dry clothing and shoes allows them to start their new chapter with dignity.
We have a clothing area which provides job interview-appropriate clothing and footwear as well as workwear and work boots (from Salvation Army); new trainers from Shoe Aid for leisure wear; and sleeping bags, rucksacks, jackets, jumpers, coats, and thermals from Share Wear, perfect for colder weather.
Share Wear are also supporting us with new initiatives focused on transgender prisoners, providing suitable, feminine, and comfortable clothing, including comfort stretch bras. Shoe Aid have also supported this with unisex shoes that are feminine, comfortable, and in suitable sizes for trans women coming out of HMP Doncaster.
I will leave on a positive story from the last few weeks. Drew was released with nowhere to live, and we managed to secure him a long-term tenancy last minute, as well as providing a food parcel, clothing, shoes, toiletries and living items like a duvet, pillow, pots, pans, toilet roll and laundry liquid. His response sums it up, “I’ve never seen anything like this before. I am overwhelmed. You’ve made me feel like a million dollars. This is just what I needed to get back on my feet and stay out of prison.”