In Tennessee, more than 150,000 children are indirect victims of crimes committed by close family members. When a loved one goes to prison, they are virtually lost to their family, and the impact of that trauma is a very real burden upon communities.
For more than 20 years, Families of Incarcerated Individuals (FII) has been helping families come to terms with the challenges they face when a loved one is sent to prison, either through direct support with health care or food access or through mentoring programs.
The group works out of The Commons on Merton, a shared space that brings together a range of community-building nonprofit organizations under one roof, led by the Center for Transforming Communities.
The close relationships among the groups working out of The Commons have a number of positive impacts on the work they do, says FII executive director Marquetta Moore-Nebo.
“The whole concept of The Commons is to bring in other nonprofits and . . . we all can mesh in some areas and benefit from one another,” Marquetta says. “It’s great because it’s almost like having everything in-house.“
"It’s almost like the whole feeling of program sharing, where you can’t do everything so we all work together to make sure all the pieces of the puzzle are put together.”
She sees the benefits of this collaboration on a regular basis, especially in terms of the young people served by the different organizations within The Commons. She recalls youth events hosted by FII involving young people connected to the Refugee Empowerment Program, and she says such events are a great example of how the various groups interact.
“We invite some of those youth to help them get acclimated, not only to America, but to our neighborhood as well,” Marquetta says, noting it provides all children an opportunity to mingle outside of classrooms and learn from each other. "All of these young people are dealing with some form of trauma in their lives and within The Commons, a common ground is found and the young people strive to overcome hardships to grow and succeed in designing a better future."