By Allison Dikanovic
Ray Mendoza remembers coming home from prison in 2015 and being overwhelmed by the harsh adjustment. He described the culture shock of re-entering society to “returning from the twilight zone” and said that four years later, it’s still something he’s learning how to navigate. Mendoza said he could have benefitted from some guidance. Now, he’s working to make sure that others have the kind of support he was looking for. He’s a “violence interrupter” on the city’s Office of Violence Prevention’s 414Life team. He also leads support groups for people transitioning home from prison through a program with the nonprofit Project Return. Most recently, he was part of a group that created Home to Stay.
Home to Stay — also referred to as “First Wednesdays” because it will occur on the first Wednesday of each month — is a one-stop shop of sorts organized by the Milwaukee Community Justice Council and the state Department of Workforce Development for people trying to rebuild their lives in Milwaukee after serving time in prison.