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Bench & Bar of Minnesota is the official publication of the Minnesota State Bar Association.

Urban Ventures: Our story

Andre Roberts was addicted to heroin. He spent six of the last eight years in prison doing time for an assortment of drug offenses. Shortly before his last stint began, Andre’s girlfriend gave birth to a baby girl, Jessica. She was his first daughter.

Seeing Jessica for the first time, something in Andre changed—he felt a sense of responsibility he never felt before. For the first time in his life, he knew he needed to be the man his daughter deserved. He needed to be the father he himself never had.

Though Andre genuinely wanted to change, the demons of his past continued to haunt him. They called his name and tried to pull him back into addiction and hopelessness.

After months of trying to get clean on his own, Andre hit rock bottom. With nowhere else to turn, Andre acted on the advice of a friend and took a bus to Urban Ventures, a faith-based nonprofit organization on the south side of Minneapolis with the mission to empower people with tools to build better futures for themselves, their families, and the community.

Upon arriving at Urban Ventures, Andre was paired with a mentor within the Center for Fathering program, Romericus. With Romericus at his side, Andre got clean and attended 16 weeks of parenting classes. He learned what it took to live sober and to be a better father and partner. He was a changed man, equipped and ready to be present in his daughter’s life.

Because of his criminal past, Andre, understandably, did not have custody of his daughter. Like many men in similar situations, Andre didn’t know where to begin the reunification process, and he was unfamiliar with his rights within the system to pursue a motion for visitation rights or custody.

Andre’s story is common within the inner city. Scores of men and women are entrapped in custody battles without the means or basic understanding of how to navigate the legal system. Romericus is not a lawyer and did not provide legal advice, but he was able to act as a guide, assisting Andre with paperwork and advocating for him during hearings.

Urban Ventures is different from many other nonprofit organizations. Staff accompanies program participants to jails, prisons, juvenile facilities, private and public law offices, and court rooms to work through court-ordered stipulations—writing progress letters to the courts, and meeting with correctional and court personnel.

After almost a decade assisting individuals to build stronger families in South Minneapolis, Romericus has learned that showing up often makes all the difference in the world—setting participants on a path to rehabilitation and success.

Today, after two years of proceedings, Andre has reunited with his daughter. They are doing well together, building a strong relationship and making up for lost time. They attend additional Urban Ventures programs that focus on education, relationships, job development, and nutrition.

In all, hundreds of families like Andre’s receive support through Urban Ventures’ programs each year. They find a community in which they can belong, a safe place to let down their guard, and a caring support system of staff equipped to help them succeed. Urban poverty is a complex problem that requires a holistic solution. Urban Ventures is filled with parents and kids building their futures, today. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.

Urban Ventures is always looking for attorneys willing to come alongside our program participants as they navigate the complexities of the legal system. We also welcome attorneys willing to make presentations on pertinent topics at Center for Fathering group sessions. Learn more about Urban Ventures and these opportunities at www.urbanventures.org or by calling Andrew Lonsbury at (612) 545-9880.

David Anderson is the marketing communications coordinator at Urban Ventures.

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