Successful Manitoba program that keeps offenders from going back to jail rewarded with $900K in funding

The Momentum Centre's "wrap-around" support for people coming out of prison has produced results: just 15 per cent of participants in its current program have reoffended, much lower than average of 70 per cent.

Momentum Centre program will continue work to reintegrate offenders

Momentum Centre participant Clint Sinclair says the program gave him an option other than death, addiction or jail. (Sean Kavanagh/CBC)

A small, nondescript building on Winnipeg's Selkirk Avenue appears to hold a key to reintegrating offenders into society — and it's being rewarded for that success with a major funding increase from the province.

Some participants say the Momentum Centre's program saved their lives.

The Momentum Centre's "wrap-around" support for people coming out of prison has produced results: just 15 per cent of participants in its current program have reoffended, a number that's a fraction of the average recidivism rate, Momentum staff said.

Momentum Centre participant Justin Rivard says the program likely kept him from a fentanyl overdose and death. (Sean Kavanagh/CBC)
The province of Manitoba responded Thursday by awarding the Momentum Centre $900,000 in funding over the next two years.

That money will help people like Justin Rivard, who says his life spiralled into constant drug use, bottoming out with heavy use of fentanyl.

"I don't mean to be dramatic, but I really do think I would be dead without the program," said Rivard, who got into the Momentum Centre program in 2015.

He said the recreation program they offered supported him at times when he fought relapses back into his addiction. 

Clear-eyed and smiling, Rivard now has a job with a health and nutrition coaching company.

Clint Sinclair wears the same smile on his face as he speaks of where he is now compared to just a couple of years ago, when he was in jail and addicted.

"When I was growing up, I always wanted to fit in, and I always wanted to fit in with the wrong people. But now I belong to this family of positive people who show me love and I show them love back," Sinclair said.

The Momentum Centre on Selkirk Avenue has seen success in helping offenders to stay out of jail. (Sean Kavanagh/CBC)

Momentum Centre takes people emerging from addictions treatment at the Headingley Correctional Centre and tries to both reintegrate them into the workforce and help sustain their efforts to avoid reoffending and abusing drugs.

The centre provides not only counselling and skills training, but housing and recreational support as well. 

Co-executive director Dawn Rodgers said one of the keys is to move slowly with participants.

"If you try to speed it up too quickly — and we've tried to to move guys into employment too fast — they relapse and end up back in the justice system," Rodgers said.

The $900,000 provincial grant announced Thursday will cover 27 months of programming and includes funding for the work experience component of what the centre's programming.

Last year, Momentum received $283,000 for a single year of programming. 

Momentume Centre co-executive director Dawn Rodgers, left, says new provincial funding 'is a huge new step.' (Sean Kavanagh/CBC)

Rodgers said the longer term and increased support will help cover some of the costs for the housing portion of their program and describes the funding hike as "substantial" and "just awesome."

Education and Training Minister Ian Wishart was at the funding announcement Thursday on Selkirk Avenue and agreed that patience was key to the Momentum Centre's success.

He pledged to continue to support it.

"You have to invest in it. You have to be patient and take time. We look at the results, absolutely, but we are prepared to invest in people, through programs like this, the not-for-profits that provide the service," Wishart said.

Provincial funding for the Momentum Centre is part of an announcement of $25 million for 86 community-based training programs across Manitoba.