More Programs Help Former Inmates Find Housing

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For newly released inmates, finding a home on the outside can be rough. Parole restrictions may limit where former inmates can live. Public housing and housing vouchers may be off-limits, and many landlords are reluctant to rent to former offenders. The result is a housing crisis among the formerly incarcerated, Stateline reports. A lack of affordable housing in many cities, and the resulting spike in overall homelessness, are exacerbating the problem. Former prison inmates are almost 10 times more likely to become homeless than the general population, says the Prison Policy Initiative. In New York City, more than 54 percent of people released from prison move straight into the city’s shelter system in 2017, says the Coalition for the Homeless.

“If people don’t have stable housing when they get out, they’re much more likely to go back,” said Steve Berg of the National Alliance to End Homelessness in Washington, D.C. “Housing is the key to understanding the recidivism puzzle.” A few states, cities and counties are experimenting with ways to house former inmates while protecting the public. Prisoner advocates in Alameda County, Ca., started a program in August that takes the Airbnb approach, pairing recently released offenders with homeowners willing to rent to them. In December, Delaware Gov. John Carney created a commission to make it easier for state inmates to find housing and employment. In Washington State, the Tacoma Housing Authority provides rental assistance to formerly incarcerated students at risk of homelessness. The Georgia Department of Corrections may be taking the most innovative approach. In August, it opened the Metro Reentry Facility in Atlanta, believed to be the first transitional state prison for offenders slated for release within 18 months. “Returning citizens” receive intensive counseling, vocational training and housing support so they will leave with two things: a job and a home.

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