INDIANAPOLIS — There's an interesting table tucked into a common area at Marion County's new Community Justice Center.
It's the size of a small coffee table. The tabletop is a thick slab cut in the shape of the state of Indiana. Several children's books lay atop the table in a comfortable waiting room space at the new courthouse.
As special as this table is, the more valuable story lies in the men who built it — all of whom learned their craft while overcoming addiction, homelessness and criminal records.
"What we do is we hire men coming out of struggles and we train them to make beautiful, handcrafted custom furniture, which we then sell to create a revenue stream to fund the jobs," said David Palmer, president of Purposeful Design, the non-profit furniture workshop on the east side.
Marion Superior Court Presiding Judge Amy Jones welcomed about two dozen of Purposeful Design's craftsmen for a special tour of the courthouse Wednesday. For many of these men, this was their first visit to court without handcuffs or the looming threat of a jail sentence.
"We are so proud that we can have these gorgeous pieces in our new courthouse," Jones said, addressing the group as they gathered around a huge conference table that was crafted at their shop.
"It's a focal point and a topic of conversation, just about all of you men and the work that you do and the great work that you’re doing to better yourselves."
Purposeful Design gives men who are broken the tools to better themselves at a workshop facility on the east side near 16th Street and North Sherman Drive, according to the people who have seen their lives change because of the program.
Dewey Titus, 38, said he was 12-years-old when he started abusing drugs. Drugs were everywhere when he was a kid and his father would insist on getting high with him, he said.
"Throughout my life having multiple jobs because of drug addictions, you know, you worked for one for a little while and then you get fired because something usually happens," Titus said.
In 2020, Titus was sentenced to 93 days in the Marion County Jail for possession of methamphetamine. He said he was housed in the same cell block as his father. He decided during that stint that he was not going to end up like his father.
He hooked up with Purposeful Design not long after his release. He had worked construction jobs before and had picked up some skills as a welder.
"They were able to teach me things that I haven't learned in other places like leadership skills, communication skills," Titus said. "I also came to them with welding skills that they didn't have at first."
Titus is now a leader at Purposeful Design teaching others how to weld, a real-world skill that is often in demand.
Men who successfully complete Purposeful Design's program have an 8% recidivism rate compared to the national average of about 77%, according to the group's website. They have an 11% return to homelessness rate compared to about 63% nationally.
Purposeful Design is successful because, more than the job skills, it teaches men to rebuild themselves through faith in Christ, Titus said.
"It's getting guys that have come from broken homes, broken people, different backgrounds, bringing them together and giving them a clear message of the Gospel, giving them a different worldview, a different way to look at life," Titus said.
"And so some guys don't wholeheartedly go into it, but they are getting the Gospel. They're getting the picture ... We want to see lives changed and ultimately that starts with with Jesus."
Contact WRTV reporter Vic Ryckaert at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @vicryc.
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