Via The Atlantic: "Our carceral state banishes American citizens to a gray wasteland far beyond the promises and protections the government grants its other citizens. Banishment continues long after one’s actual time behind bars has ended, making housing and employment hard to secure. And banishment was not simply a well-intended response to rising crime. It was the method by which we chose to address the problems that preoccupied Moynihan, problems resulting from 'three centuries of sometimes unimaginable mistreatment.' At a cost of $80 billion a year, American correctional facilities are a social-service program—providing health care, meals, and shelter for a whole class of people."
"The challenges of housing and employment bedevil many ex-offenders. 'It’s very common for them to go homeless,' Linda VanderWaal, the associate director of prisoner reentry at a community-action agency in Michigan, told me. In the winter, VanderWaal says, she has a particularly hard time finding places to accommodate all the homeless ex-prisoners. Those who do find a place to live often find it difficult to pay their rent."
"NYCHA’s Family Reentry Pilot Program helps people leaving prison and/or jail reunite with their families in NYCHA public housing. Through the program, formerly incarcerated individuals gain access to the family support, housing security, and reentry services necessary after incarceration."
Via The Nation: "Rules vary by city, but many local public housing authorities exclude people with a criminal record either completely or for several years, exacerbating bias that exists in the wider housing market. In a recent survey of formerly incarcerated people and their families, the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights found that 79 percent of respondents had been denied housing because of their own criminal record or a relative’s. One in ten reported that family members were evicted when their relatives returned from prison. Because of racial disparity in the criminal justice system, these barriers to housing likely have a disproportionate impact on people of color."
Via The Guardian: "Nearly 10 years in prison is long enough to make someone dependent on the basic necessities: food, housing and heat. So when Darnell Smith, 31, prepared to leave Sing Sing correctional facility in Westchester, New York, he began to panic. He had no home outside of his cell.
Smith’s wife and two children – a family now expanded to three kids – lived in one of the 328 New York City public housing developments for low-income residents. But Smith wasn’t allowed to join them, on account of a long-standing housing policy that severely limits the opportunities for convicted felons to live in public housing.
'You’re telling me I cannot live with my wife and kids and the only way I could is if they leave public housing?' Smith said.
Smith considered a homeless shelter, which is the immediate destination for many formerly incarcerated people in New York City. A relative helped him cobble together the monthly $600 for a single room in Harlem with no kitchen – basically like 'being in a box', Smith recalled."
Via St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "Gwen Smith wrote a letter (Nov. 18) about various Ban the Box efforts around the country regarding not having one's felony record automatically preclude them from getting a job. As a felon myself, I certainly applaud this change of thinking. But there is an equally, if not more pressing roadblock for felons trying to re-enter their communities: housing.
Over the past three weeks, I have tried to apply to 34 apartment complexes in the North County area. Some are out of my price range, some are in questionable neighborhoods. But of the dozen or so that do fit those first two criteria, every single one has outright rejected my attempts to apply because of the felony. For those of us who don't have homes to go back to, finding housing is a crapshoot of either living in an unsafe area or finding suitable arrangements in newspaper ads, which opens a whole other box of uncertainties.
The halfway house and probation offices are constantly prodding you to find a place to live, apparently oblivious to the fact that the scarlet F's we wear limit our options to unsafe or zero. It is an extremely frustrating and frankly hopeless trial that those of us with limited financial means must somehow overcome. Ban the Box movements at employers are great, but it's only half the battle."
Housing justice is a racial justice issue. This report from the Seattle University School of Law describes the disproportionate impact of the criminal justice system on people of color.
Via Think Progress: "As a result of this widespread employment discrimination and economic insecurity, a significant number of transgender people report having to rely on criminalized survival economies, such as sex work and drug selling, in order to get their basic needs met. Even though most transgender people report not engaging in criminalized survival work, many still experience police profiling on the assumption that they are engaged in criminal activity, in a trend known as “walking while trans.”
As a result of these experiences, as well as the general criminalization of poverty and homelessness, transgender communities experience high rates of police harassment and incarceration. Approximately 16 percent of transgender people have been in jail or prison at some point in their lives, where they face significant violence and harassment, as compared to 2.7 percent of the general population, making them more susceptible to criminal history discrimination. National reports such as Roadmap for Change highlight these needs, and outline the significant work that must still be done to end systemic criminalization, policing, and incarceration of LGBT communities."
Via City Lab: "Many of those released this weekend and in the future will be sheltered by family and loved ones. Others will have steeper challenges, and even those who do get sheltered may be there only temporary. At some point, the released need to find permanent housing, or the closest thing to it. In theory, the kind of housing most affordable and available for this population is public housing. But the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has unsteady rules on public housing eligibility for people with felony convictions. People convicted of sex offender crimes and those busted for manufacturing crystal meth in federally assisted housing are banned for life from public housing benefits. But most other decisions on public housing eligibility are left to local public housing authorities, which can have varying and dizzying criteria. As these returning citizens become prospective housing candidates, they’re likely to encounter resistance that can be as severe as neighbors actively petitioning against their re-entry into communities.
For those returning who might have mental health challenges, permanent supportive housing can be an ideal fit for them, but many neighborhoods shun the placement of this kind of housing in their neighborhoods. As the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights recently reported, four out of five formerly incarcerated surveyed this year were denied housing or were determined ineligible due to criminal backgrounds. President Obama has among his announcements today new federal guidelines on admitting people with criminal records into public housing, and $8.7 million for a permanent supportive housing program for the formerly imprisoned."