HUD Secretary Issues Letter to PHAs Encouraging More Flexible Admissions Policies
In June 2011, former US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan wrote a letter to Public Housing Agency (PHA) Directors across the country to clarify HUD policy related to criminal history and to encourage more flexible, reasonable admissions policies for people re-entering communities following incarceration. The Secretary acknowledged the importance of stable housing in successful reintegration and cited HUD’s efforts to balance public safety with family reunification for those returning to families living in HUD-assisted housing.
USICH applauds HUD for its leadership on this important issue. Incarceration and homelessness are highly interrelated as the difficulties in reintegrating into the community increase the risk of homelessness for released prisoners, and homelessness in turn increases the risk for subsequent re-incarceration. However, recent research shows that a criminal background does not predict whether someone succeeds or fails at staying housed. Further, some communities are learning that offering housing and services to repeat offenders can be an effective anti-crime strategy. (Read about the Downtown 100 Initiative in Minneapolis, MN.) The bottom line? Overly restrictive housing admissions policies not only deny individuals a second chance at becoming productive citizens, but they may actually be increasing costs to communities as these individuals continue to cycle through emergency services and correctional facilities.
USICH looks forward to working with PHAs to increase access to publicly-assisted housing for people involved in the criminal justice system while still maintaining and ensuring public safety.