From White Walls to Bright Halls: Opening Ogburn House

THEI (Tennessee Higher Education Initiative) celebrated the grand opening of Ogburn House on a crisp Friday, January 12, jumpstarting 2024. This open house was an all-day affair, as THEI invited multiple faith leaders to offer blessings of Islamic, Jewish, and Christian faiths onto Ogburn House and its future residents. Three days later, after a record snowfall of over seven inches in Middle Tennessee, the first resident of Ogburn House crossed the threshold, stepping into what is not just a house but a symbol of hope, resilience, and the crucial role housing plays in the reentry process.

Centrally located at the Scarritt Bennett Center in Nashville, Ogburn House ensures residents not only find solace within its walls but also reconnect with the broader community. THEI believes that true reintegration involves breaking down barriers and fostering connections. Ogburn House's proximity allows residents to engage with the rich cultural tapestry of Nashville, rebuilding relationships and establishing a sense of belonging beyond the confines of their past.

Ogburn House stands as more than just a physical structure; it embodies THEI's dedication to the reintegration of justice-impacted individuals into society. It is a testament to the belief that everyone, regardless of their past, deserves a chance at stability, autonomy, and success. The grand opening allowed the community, alumni, and staff to witness the result of meticulous work and preparation that went into transforming the house into a comfortable and enjoyable living space for its future residents.

The Necessity of Housing in Reentry

Behind the celebratory atmosphere of the grand opening lies a stark reality: the dire need for housing in the reentry process for formerly incarcerated people. Statistics paint a poignant picture, revealing that formerly incarcerated individuals are almost ten times more likely to experience homelessness than the general public. The transition from prison to the community is laden with challenges, and without a stable place to live, addressing health problems, finding employment, or acquiring new skills becomes an uphill battle.

A profound connection exists between homelessness and incarceration, with individuals experiencing both at alarming rates. The cycle often begins early, as homelessness becomes a major predictor of involvement with the juvenile justice system. Addressing this cycle is crucial for preventing a single mistake from spiraling into a lifetime of struggle.

There is a pervasive, nation-wide criminalization of homelessness, many states enacting laws that prohibit sleeping on park benches or standing in public plazas without a place to be during the day. These seemingly innocuous offenses put people experiencing homelessness at high risk of arrest and incarceration, creating a counterproductive cycle that hinders their ability to secure housing, jobs, and public assistance.

Humanity Around Housing

Amidst the facts and figures lies a fundamental truth: housing is a human right. Ogburn House underscores THEI's commitment to radical hospitality, providing a welcoming, peaceful space for formerly incarcerated individuals, acknowledging their humanity and the dignity they deserve. For a community often stigmatized and dehumanized, barred from job and housing applications, programs like Ogburn House play a crucial role in supporting their transition and helping them find their version of success.

Many who have experienced incarceration recount the sterile, lifeless white walls within prison complexes. The instinct to paint walls in vibrant colors and hang up artwork upon release speaks to the desire for individuality and self-expression. Ogburn House aims to echo this sentiment, offering residents the opportunity to transform their living space into a home, a sanctuary where they can reconnect with the community.

Painting a New Narrative

The transition from incarceration to freedom is complex, with multifaceted challenges. Ogburn House acknowledges the undeniable correlation between stable housing and successful reentry. It embodies the idea that every individual, regardless of their past, deserves the opportunity to reshape their narrative. This home serves as a testament to the belief that the cycle of homelessness and incarceration can be broken, replaced by a cycle of support, compassion, and empowerment.

Learn More About Ogburn House Here.

You can be a vital part of this transformative journey. Consider contributing to Ogburn House through our various sponsorship levels. Your support will directly impact the lives of those seeking a fresh start. Donate Now.