What is Freedom Bus Ministry?
The ride home from jail – CNN Video
The Freedom Bus Ministry in Houston helps women, who are newly-released from prison, get home.
We are a partnership of churches offering a ministry of hospitality to individuals as they step out of a prison van and back into society. Five days a week, women from the Plane State and Henley jails in Dayton, Texas, are released onto the street in Houston near the Greyhound Bus station. Freedom Bus Ministry volunteers meet those women and offer assistance.
Presently, two congregations, Kingwood United Methodist Church and Kingwood Christian Church, work together to assist female ex-offenders during their first few hours after release. We welcome and encourage other congregations to consider partnering with us in this effort.
Texas women from the prison facilities in Dayton are driven to the downtown Houston Greyhound station at Main and Webster Streets where they are dropped off to fend for themselves after serving their time. Most have no money. They arrive between midday and early afternoon and are hungry as breakfast was served to them at 3:45 A.M. Their clothing marks them as vulnerable targets for pimps, drug dealers, and human traffickers, who recognize the signature brown prison shoes and red mesh bags that hold their possessions. When you find yourself alone, penniless, and hungry in a strange city, you may feel forced to accept “help” from just about anyone.
That’s where the Freedom Bus Ministry steps in. Volunteers meet the ladies and offer whatever assistance they need during those critical first few hours. We provide a lunch of hamburgers and chips and sodas to address the most immediate and pressing need of hunger. We provide hygiene supplies and snacks for the sometimes long bus ride to cities and towns across Texas. We share our cell phones so the women have the means to connect with family or friends as they try to get home.
Some have Greyhound Bus vouchers to another town but they need to let family members know when to pick them up when they arrive. Some are local but need a friend or family member to pick them up from downtown. Or, if that isn’t possible, they need fare to ride the Metro. The Freedom Bus volunteers assist with all of these issues to insure that the ladies have the means to get safely from their drop-off point in downtown Houston to wherever they need to go. Sometimes there is no home to go to, in which case, volunteers will provide a ride to a nearby homeless shelter.
In short, we become their support system when they step off that prison van scared and alone. We try to create a safe, non-judgmental bubble of support around them as they figure out what they need to do and where they need to go in order to get safely home. We offer a ministry of presence, an act of kindness, and a way-station of hospitality.