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USICH and the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty met with agency partners to discuss new strategies to reduce criminalization of homelessness.
The Reentry Newsletter
Yesterday, USICH released its newsletter focused on reentry of individuals from jails and prisons. The newsletter covers the challenges of reentry housing and provides the resources to make a difference. Also, it highlights work being done on the federal and local level to successfully address reentry.
The issue of reentry is urgent. Annually, approximately 730,000 Federal and state prisoners return to communities and over 9 million pass through local jails. For people held in state and federal prisons, the path to stability can be long and challenging. Beyond the employment barriers and stigma related to a criminal conviction, many do not have a stable home or a family support system when released. These individuals are far more likely to become homeless in the days and weeks after release. Residing in shelters rather than a more stable environment has shown to increase the risk of re-incarceration. There is also a subset of individuals in the nation's prisons and jails that cycle between the criminal justice system and homelessness that incur high costs to themselves and public systems.
This week we will be releasing a package of information through our newsletter focused on the challenges of reentry for individuals transitioning out of jails and prisons, and the ways the government and service providers are working to create successful outcomes for this population of Americans. Today we’ll share with you the work of a well-documented initiative from our partners at CSH, Returning Home Ohio.
Returning Home Ohio (RHO) is a supportive housing pilot initiative led by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) and Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) aimed at preventing homelessness and reducing recidivism for individuals reentering Ohio’s communities from state prisons. The target population includes offenders released from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections who have histories of chronic homelessness or are at-risk of homelessness upon release.
Photo courtesy of CSH
At the National Alliance to End Homelessness’ annual conference on ending homelessness I had the good fortune of attending a lively workshop session titled “Crossing Hard Thresholds: Access to Housing from Jails and Prisons.” The session dealt with the critical topic of preventing homelessness for people exiting correctional facilities. There are currently more than a million people in state and federal prisons in the U.S. and an additional 735,000 people in jails. Research has shown that individuals without stable housing upon exit from jails or prisons are up to seven times more likely re-offend; sometimes cycling for years between jails, prisons, emergency psychiatric care, and homelessness. As John Fallon, the session moderator from the Corporation for Supportive Housing noted, this cycle is extremely costly for state and local governments. He shared a real case study of Richard, a 42-year old who had spent the previous 21 years cycling between jails, mental health centers, and homelessness at an average annual cost of $72,910.
The NAEH session highlighted innovative programs aimed at ending homelessness and criminal recidivism among ex-offenders.
Last week, I was in Orlando for the US Conference of Mayors 80th Annual Meeting. One purpose of the visit was promoting the new USICH report, Searching Out Solutions: Alternatives to the Criminalization of Homelessness. The Conference endorsed a resolution (p. 49) that called on communities to:”adopt the recommendations in the report (to) meet the needs of the larger community as a whole while also enhancing progress on efforts to end homelessness.”
Memphis, TN Mayor A.C. Wharton and Newton, MA Mayor Setti Warren were the primary sponsors; co-sponsoring were Boston, MA Mayor Thomas Menino, North Miami, FL Mayor Andre Pierre, and Asheville, NC Mayor Terry Bellamy.