22 January 2024

Everyone gets a second chance at the House of Grace. The programme, which is supported by NAK-karitativ, helps prisoners rebuild their lives and re-integrate into society.

When Noam (first name changed) was sent to prison, he was still young and full of anger and thoughts of revenge. Because his cousin had been murdered, he and three members of his family killed a member of the clan whom he believed was responsible for his cousin’s death. After years in prison, he no longer had any contact with his family and felt lonely and abandoned.

A place where no one judges

He began therapy at the House of Grace in Haifa, Israel. ‌There he worked on processing the traumatic experiences he had had as a child, learned to put himself in the victim’s shoes, and to express his feelings. He has changed: “A man liberates himself when he decides to take control of the cultural code that dictates how I should act,” he says today. “It was unexpected for everyone, but today I understand that a man frees himself and his family from the loss.”

Noam is not the only former prisoner to be given a second chance at the House of Grace. Since 1982, the community-based organisation has helped more than a thousand prisoners reintegrate into society.

Need in times of war

NAK-karitativ, the aid agency of the New Apostolic Church, has been supporting the half-way house in Haifa since 2017. “Everyone deserves love, a home, and a warm family environment where they can feel safe,” Tatjana Augustin, the managing director of nak-karitativ, explains. “Everyone deserves support and care and the right to be part of society.”

The recent armed conflicts in the region have shown NAK-karitativ how important the aid agency’s commitment and financial support is: supplies need to be stockpiled, and even more social work and therapeutic support is needed. At the same time, there are fewer jobs for those who complete the programme.

Support on the road to freedom

Prisoners who have served their sentence can spend up to one year and nine months in the House of Grace. During the introductory phase, they get to know their new surroundings and familiarise themselves with the programme. During active rehabilitation, they take part in various group and individual therapies, workshops, training courses, and excursions. They are constantly monitored by programme staff who monitor progress and adapt the programme to the needs and challenges of the participants.

Support is also available for the transition from the House of Grace back into society: former prisoners are helped to make contact with potential employers, and with their families and acquaintances. Many of the former residents, who are living independent lives in society, are available as trained mentors to help them find a job, a place to live, and a stable environment.

Redefining one’s life

The programme is now recognised by the state. Less than forty per cent of those who have spent time at the half-way house have reoffended.

It is not easy for Noam when he leaves the programme. For fear of retribution, he is not allowed to enter the village where his victim’s family lives–until 2025. Nevertheless, he is determined to rebuild his life and make up for the mistakes of the past.