National Best Practices for Local Reentry Councils HOUSING CAROLINA JUSTICE POLICY CENTER Community Services Conference Chapel Hill, NC - May 16, 2014 Dennis Schrantz Center for Justice Innovation Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency www.miccd.org
Housing Best Practices GOAL To facilitate access to stable housing upon re-entry into the community so that no returning citizen is released to homelessness Reference: Report of the ReEntry Policy Council Housing – Pages 256-281
Housing Policy Expectations • Facility staff, parole staff and community-based transition planners work with prisoners to assess individual housing needs and identify the appropriate housing option for each incarcerated individual well in advance of release. • The housing planning process includes an assessment of the feasibility, safety, and appropriateness of an individual living with family members after his or her release from prison. • A full range of housing options (i.e. supportive housing, transitional housing, affordable private rental housing) is available with adequate capacity to accommodate the number of individuals returning to the community.
Housing Policy Expectations • Individuals leaving prison who have histories of homelessness are included among the homeless priority population, in order to facilitate their access to supportive housing. • Prisoners receive information and training on strategies for finding/maintaining housing and their legal rights as tenants. • Individuals who are entering the private rental market—and who demonstrate that they are without adequate resources to pay rent— are provided small stipends and/or housing assistance for the period immediately after release.
Housing Operational Expectations • Individuals leaving prison immediately enter an appropriate housing option in the community. • Transition planners, working with community-based organizations, are familiar with the full range of housing options available in each community and maintain lists or inventories of available housing. • Family violence risks are recognized/addressed in the housing plan when risk to the family or partner is an issue.
Housing Gaps/Barriers for Returning Citizens • Lack of safe, affordable, long-term housing options like supportive housing • For sexual offenders, restrictions due to “proximity laws” • Denial of rental applications due to: criminal history, bad/lack of credit • Long waiting lists for public housing due to inadequate state/federal funding • Community resistance • Resources to assist with security deposits and/or rent in the private market • Lack of state and federally funded low-income housing vouchers • Misinterpretation for exclusions in federal housing regulations or local practices
Housing Promising Approaches Research on the best practices for housing options for returning prisoners is still in its infancy but the literature identifies several promising approaches*: • Familial households • Private-market housing • Federally subsidized housing • Service-enhanced transitional and permanent supportive housing • Community corrections centers *Lake, 1993; HUD, 1997; LaVigneet al., 2003; Visher et al., 2004; Roman and Travis, 2004
Housing Promising Approaches: Familial Households For 10% to 20% of returning prisoners, living with their family is not an option due family conflict, limited resources, legal restrictions, and/or history of violent or sexual misconduct.* 49% to 62% of returning citizens stay with family member or friends upon release and for about two months. This can be encouraged by working with family members while the returning citizen is still in prison to plan for this eventually and the conditions that could make it work: • Implement family support and reunification services that provide pre-release counseling and support for prisoners and families. • Start with an assessment by a licensed family therapist and provide support/guidance from partnering community providers to assist. • Identify Family Advocates to meet with the prisoner’s family to address issues that prevent the family from reuniting with the returning prisoner.
Housing Promising Approaches: Familial Households (cont’d) • Create a network of local providers that can assist the family in meeting their needs through a wide variety of services (utility assistance, emergency rent vouchers, counseling) and accompany the family on visits to the prison to begin working on reunification. • In cases where the family is uncomfortable with reunification until the prisoner has returned and has shown a commitment to living a responsible, crime-free life, the Family Advocate can continue to coordinate supportive services with the family and proceed with the reunification process when everyone involved is ready. • Although the primary focus of this program is on the health, safety, and well-being of the families, a healthy family with access to needed support services is a valuable housing option for returning prisoners.
Housing Promising Approaches: The Private Market Renting or purchasing is an option, but few returning prisoners have adequate resources to do so*. Many urban areas are witnessing increasingly tight rental markets, with a severely limited number of units available for low-income households, particularly in neighborhoods accessible by public transportation** A similar problem exists in rural areas where the distance to employment and other services is often greater and the public transportation options are fewer. Landlords may view all individuals with criminal records as a threat to safety without considering individual circumstances. Criminal background checks are allowed by most states and are standard practice by many landlords. Sex offenders are subject to legal restrictions that limit where they can live. Sex offender registries are easily accessible to landlords, who are often fearful of renting to sex offenders regardless of individual circumstances. *A 2004 study by the National Low-Income Housing Coalition reported that, on average, a full-time worker needed to earn $15.37 per hour ($31,970 annually) in order to afford the rent for a modest two-bedroom home while paying no more than 30 percent of income for housing. Based on this estimate, those working for minimum wage must work at least 80 hours per week to afford the same apartment. **National Low-Income Housing Coalition 2004; Obrinsky and Meron 2002.
Housing Promising Approaches: The Private Market (cont’d) Many community-based reentry sites are providing rental assistance designed to help parolees—who do not yet have an income—access housing in the private market such as using federal, state or local funding to help pay rent on a time-limited basis for parolees who are in need of housing, are at high or moderately high risk to re-offend, and are ineligible for other existing resources. • To make this approach work, collaborating with housing assistance providers ensures that parolees are accessing available assets. • Communities maintain a current housing inventory to assist parolees in quickly locating appropriate housing options. • Public outreach and education is used to hear the concerns of local residents and dispel some of the fears around parolees living in the community resulting in increased community support of the re-entry housing efforts.
Federally Subsidized Housing For many returning prisoners, neither familial nor private-market options are realistic. Without a family willing to take them in or the money available for rent, many turn to federally subsidized housing programs as a viable option before homelessness.* Public housing waiting lists for individuals and families are typically long, with families with children getting first consideration.** Compounding the issues of availability is eligibility, both for public housing and for vouchers. From a financial perspective, many PHAs ask for proof of income to be eligible for Section 8 housing vouchers, a task difficult for those just leaving prison. Federally subsidized options include public housing and the Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCVP). Nationally, there are approximately 1.3 million households living in public housing units, owned, managed, and operated by 3,300 Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) (see: http://www.hud.gov/renting/phprog.cfm). According to the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, between 1996 and 1998, a family’s average time on a waiting list for public housing rose from 22 months to 33 months, a 50 percent increase. In some large cities, the waiting period is substantially longer.
Federally Subsidized Housing (cont’d) But there are exceptions – and sometimes the only choice is to work through the process. Having a positive working relationship with the state housing authority – usually developed at the state level by state leaders – makes this more fruitful: • An evicted person successfully completes a rehabilitation program. • The circumstances leading to the eviction no longer exist. • The person is no longer illegally using drugs or abusing alcohol and is participating in or has successfully completed a rehabilitation program or has otherwise been rehabilitated successfully.
Housing Promising Approaches: Community Corrections Centers Community corrections centers, also known as halfway houses or community re-entry centers, provide a “halfway” step between prison and independent living. These facilities are overseen by either corrections or community corrections agencies Eligibility varies by state and offense, some inmates are eligible for release into a transitional program for the last 90 to 120 days of their sentence, to serve several purposes. • To provide a structured and regulated environment for high- risk parolees who may not be ready to go straight from prison to living independently in the community. • To increase public safety by closely monitoring residents’ activity. • To offer supportive services and case managers to broker employment and social services in the community. • To support work outside of the facility to promote community reintegration while maintaining intensive supervision and coordinating service delivery.
Housing Promising Approaches: Service-Enhanced Transitional Housing Combining housing services with additional support services has shown success in helping returning prisoners with very few resources achieve success using two basic models, service-enhanced transitional housing and supportive housing. • Service-enhanced housing includes transitional (i.e., fixed length of stay) or phased-permanent housing (a new housing model where residents have month-to-month occupancy agreements in lieu of leases) coupled with a variety of support services to assist clients in achieving self-sufficiency. • Supportive housing is designed to provide permanent housing, where social service provision is an integral component of the housing operation.
Housing Promising Approaches: Service-Enhanced Transitional Housing (cont’d) Supportive or service-enhanced housing programs offer a range of services in addition to housing:* • One of the major and often insurmountable barriers to this type of housing is community opposition to the development or expansion of supportive or transitional housing so public education is needed. • This opposition appears to be motivated by fear of increased levels of crime, noise, and traffic, as well as a fear of decreased property value, despite current research that does not support many of these common fears.** *Service may include: family counseling, case management, medical services, substance abuse counseling, social skills development, anger management, vocational training, and/or assistance with obtaining vital documents such as Social Security cards and birth certificates. Some jurisdictions have used these programs specifically to target returning prisoners or ex-offenders but the majority serve these populations simply because they are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless (Roman et al., 2006). **For instance, research has shown that the general impact of Section 8 occupancy and supportive housing appears to positively impact property values (Galster et al., 1999). In addition, research shows that if negative impacts do occur, it is most likely because these facilities are forced into already troubled areas, providing more potential victims to criminals already active in the area (Goetz et al., 1996; Galster et al., 2002).
Housing Promising Approaches: Service-Enhanced Transitional Housing (cont’d) Some community reentry sites have built successful relationships with existing supportive-housing providers. In some communities where the traditional approach to supportive housing is not currently an option, sites are combining supportive services with other housing options, such as private-market options. • For example, in a three county region in Michigan (Muskegon-Ottawa-Oceana), the LRC has designed a process through which a Housing Specialist assists parolees who are ineligible for existing services find suitable housing in the private market. The site then provides rental assistance to bridge the gap until an individual secures employment. • Once the returning prisoner is housed, the Housing Specialist continues to work with the individual, parole agent, and transition team to coordinate a wide array of services to support housing stability, including employment, transportation, and health care services.
Housing: National Resources Bradley, K.H., N.C. Richardson, R.B.M. Oliver, and E.M. Slayter. (2001). No Place Like Home: Housing and the Ex-Prisoner. Boston, MA: Community Resources for Justice. Gilbert, P. (May 2004). Guide for Developing Housing for Ex-Offenders. US Dept of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Community Capacity Development Office. NCJ 203374. Kirk, T.A. (April 2007). Supportive Housing, Better Care, Batter Value. Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. http://www.ct.gov/dmhas/site/default.asp Petersilia, J. 2000. “Prisoners Returning to Communities: Political, Economic, and Social Consequences.” In Sentencing and Corrections: Issues for the 21st Century. National Institute of Justice: Papers from the Executive Sessions on Sentencing and Corrections. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, May.
Housing: National Resources Petersilia, J. 2003. When Prisoners Come Home: Parole and Prisoner Reentry. Oxford, UK: Ox-ford University Press. Taxman, F. S., Young, D., Byrne, J. M., Holsinger, A., & Anspach, D. (October 2002). From Prison Safety to Public Safety: Innovations in Offender Reentry. Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice. Travis, J., A. Solomon, & M. Waul. (June 2001). From Prison to Home: The Dimensions and Consequences of Prisoner Reentry. Washington, DC: The Urban Institute, Justice Policy Center.