TAVARES – Many times, offenders who are released on probation battle poverty, joblessness, homelessness and various other circumstances that make it difficult for them to re-enter society as productive citizens. In an effort to help facilitate the transition, the Lake County Probation Services Division has partnered with the national Open Table initiative.
Open Table is a community-based collaboration model that aims to help individuals implement life plans to achieve self-sufficiency and overcome poverty. Through Open Table, the Probation Services Division refers potential candidates to “Tables” of up to 12 trained volunteers, hosted by faith-based groups. The volunteers on each “Table” meet with candidates for one hour per week, investing their vocational and life experiences to help them successfully navigate the community and overcome various obstacles. The “Tables” may also include legal and behavioral health professionals, local businesses, family members and other community organizations.
“This initiative allows us to surround individuals, who are serious about turning their lives around, with positive influences that are focused on eliciting positive changes,” said Tony Deaton, Chief Probation Officer with the Lake County Probation Services Division. “Participating in this program helps them overcome various hurdles that may inhibit their ability to become productive, prosperous members of the community and also decreases the likelihood they will reoffend.”
Probationers who take part in the program participate on a voluntary basis, and no religious affiliation or involvement is required. To be considered for referral, candidates must successfully complete a series of evaluations to show they are serious about making a positive transition. There is no fiscal cost to the County for participating in the Open Table partnership.
Started in 2005, Open Table is a nonprofit poverty transformation program that provides individuals with a restorative path to wholeness and sustainability. The model currently operates in Florida, Arizona, California, Iowa, New York and Texas.
For more information about Open Table, call the Lake County Probation Services Division at 352-742-6567 or visit www.theopentable.org.