‘Survivor’ star Boneham working to rehab homes, rehab lives

SHELBYVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — The in-and-out of jail cycle is one that seems to never end for some. But a program started by a local celebrity is working to change that.

That local celebrity is a “survivor” himself. Rupert Boneham and his organization, Rupert’s Kids, is launching a re-entry program to give inmates who are just getting out of jail a home. Boneham refers to it as a plan in place for men and women getting out of jail, who often have nobody to turn to.

“When you send somebody out of the detention center that’s only made an illegal dollar, that has no education and no sense of self worth, where do you really think they’re going to go?” asked Boneham.

Rupert’s Kids purchased old buildings in need of repairs, and hired people who have had trouble with the law, to remodel them. Once renovated, some of the buildings will be used for housing in an inmate re-entry program.

The program has gained support of Shelby County courts, law enforcement, as well as probation and parole officers.

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Two young men, who have made mistakes that have landed them in jail, are working to turn their lives around.

“This most recent time, I was arrested for methamphetamine,” admits 24-year old Darrell Babbs.

21-year old Alex Pence adds, “I broke into a store. It was a stupid thing. It wasn’t anything thought out.”

Although they each have different stories to tell, they both want the same thing out of life: another chance.

“It was a poor decision and my character isn’t even that same person anymore. I can’t even comprehend why I would do something like that,” said Pence.

“Trying to be a better person. I’m a father. I’m a brother. I don’t have my family left. I don’t have much people to turn to,” said Babbs.

They turned to Rupert’s Kids. It’s an organization that works with at risk youth in a variety of ways: mentor programs, work, financial assistance and community partnerships. Now, Rupert’s Kids is working to add re-entry program to its list.

“Young men and women are going to be able to come out of the detention center and be able to come into our sleeping rooms or small apartments and be able to, as long as they stay clean and sober, and show up to work everyday, they’re going to be able to take care of themselves,” said Boneham.

It’ll take about a month to complete. Once done, it’ll house four people just out of jail and a property manager. It’ll have a community kitchen, living room and two bathrooms. The project is giving the former inmates self confidence in their abilities.

“I don’t want drugs around me. I don’t want violence. I don’t want my past to re-emerge,” said Babbs.

“This is all a pit stop to help me get my life together and it’s probably the most important one I’ve ever had,” said Pence.

Those in the re-entry program can rent a room for $300 a month. If they successfully complete the six month program, they will receive their money back to use for an apartment of their own.

Rupert’s Children purchased an additional building that once complete will house eight people.