Founded in 1972, by Riverside Christian Ministries Riverside House is a faith-based sober living facility for criminal justice clients recently released from jail or prison. Located in Miami, Florida, their mission is giving this particular high-risk population of men and women a chance to start over while not having to worry about the basics—food, shelter and air conditioning (it’s Florida, after all). Since 1977, Cleveland Bell III has served as executive director. As an ex-con, Bell shares his life experiences with residents, relates to their feelings and provides guidance.
Accommodations and Amenities
Riverside House has three buildings on campus and accommodates up to 120 clients. Four clients are housed dorm-style in gender-specific rooms. Furnishings include two bunk beds, a row of four single-tier metal lockers and steel folding chairs. The may be Spartan, but they are immaculately clean—thanks to residents who are on cleaning detail. Windows provide ample sunlight to keep it from feeling too institutional. The campus also has a chapel room, classrooms, recreational area, laundry, cafeteria and administrative offices.
Three hot meals are served per day, cafeteria-style. The comfort food cuisine includes mashed potatoes, Salisbury steak, beef stew and vegetables. Bagged lunches are provided for working clients, as well as for those who spend the day off campus job hunting or on interviews.
Rules and Regulations
Clients receive individualized treatment plans and work closely with a case manager, receiving performance reviews on a bi-weekly basis. Riverside House collaborates with local churches and community agencies, providing clients with Christian-based counseling, as well as substance abuse treatment. Length of stay is typically six months, but some clients stay longer.
Clients are required to do chores around the facility and attend a variety of classes until they find a job. Class topics include life skills, spiritual guidance and GED preparation. Spanish-speaking classes are offered. Riverside House works closely with a network of employers and actively assists clients with their job searches. In addition, an employment specialist helps clients with interview techniques, attire and resume writing. Clients must have sanctioned departure and arrival times when leaving the campus. Upon return, they are subject to drug and alcohol testing. The staff has two-way radios, and the property is under constant video surveillance. Population counts are standard procedure. Clients are required to attend a weekly church services, receive one-on-one pastoral counseling as well as participate in Bible study.
Residents pay 25 percent of their gross income toward housing costs. Riverside House also assists clients with locating future housing, as well as providing them with medical and mental health care referrals.
Besides Bell, the staff of seven includes a business liaison, human resources coordinator, support services manager, chaplain, facility director and a director of training. Residents take care of all the cooking and cleaning under the supervision of staff.
Visitation times for family and friends are from 7 to 8:30 pm, Tuesdays and Thursdays, and from 1 to 3 pm on Fridays.
Cleve’s Place, named in honor of Cleveland Bell III, offers a faith-based housing program for homeless men. Length of stay is between 12 and 18 months. Residents are provided beds, desks, lockers and access to the Internet. Cleve’s Place parallels the Riverside House program. Future plans include expansion and the accommodation of indigent women. The cost is based on a sliding scale fee.
Bell and his staff are passionate about helping criminal justice clients get a second chance, as well as develop skills for new lives in sobriety. This is a great environment for those who are looking for a step up from institutional life while they find a job and learn some new skills for living clean. However, this is not a good fit for those who are resistant to Christian principles, since church services and Bible study are required.
968 N.W. 2nd Street
Miami, FL 33128
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