FLIP FLOP Support Groups, Inc., helps incarcerated or formerly incarcerated citizens and their families with challenges related to housing, restitution of rights and much more.
A Florida Department of Corrections report on recidivism, released in July 2022, indicates that as of 2018 only 10 percent of men recently released from prison or jail were employed. More than 5 percent of recently incarcerated men were homeless after their release. The report found that a major factor leading to recidivism—being incarcerated again—was homelessness. A Prison Policy report from 2018 found that formerly incarcerated people are almost 10 times more likely to be homeless than the general public.
The nonprofit FLIP FLOP Support Groups, Inc., (Families with Loved Ones in Prison; Families with Loved Ones out of Prison) was formed in 2009 by Jacalyn Brown, who had previously worked for the U.S. Department of Justice in Florida, in part to address the issue of housing.
“After working for 10 years with the state Department of Juvenile Justice,” Brown says, “I saw a need for working with families of incarcerated individuals. Although my career there was rewarding, it did not provide an outlet for me to assist the families of juveniles.”
Brown, the Director of Compliance of the Ocala Housing Authority since 2006, shares that, “When I became employed with the Ocala Housing Authority, it provided the perfect niche to work with families of incarcerated individuals.”
Brown and other board members host monthly FLIP FLOP Support Groups meetings to surround the families of incarcerated individuals, and those who have been released and their families, with the support they need, with the goal of “realigning the effects of incarceration to families,” she says.
“Upon release from jail or prison, the returning citizen usually has some barriers to becoming stable,” Brown continues. “We try to assist by assessing the needs and doing what we can financially, by referrals and, many times, they only need encouragement and guidance on what steps to take.”
FLIP FLOP Support Groups highlights available resources, such as the Marion County Clerk of Courts Office for the restitution of a released citizen’s right to vote, and the Ocala Housing Authority to help secure a roof over their heads.
John Hammond, who re-entered society after serving 37 years in prison, received assistance through the 501(c)(3). The group helped pay a deposit to secure housing and helped him with job applications. He credits the group and his faith in God as reasons for his success.
“The need for stable housing is the piece that puts them right at FLIP FLOP Support Groups door,” Brown says. “We operate out of the Ocala Housing Authority.”
The group, which operates primarily from private donations, meets at 6pm the fourth Friday of each month at the Ocala Housing Authority campus. OS