Affordable, Safe Housing for All Formerly Incarcerated People
Formerly incarcerated people face a housing market where affordable and safe options are scarce and potentially off limits to someone with a criminal record. In essence, communities across the U.S. marginalize returning citizens, setting them up to fail at the very moment we should embrace them.
Our Homecoming Project (Homecoming) is changing the status quo. Here are two ways our innovation has moved a step closer to our ultimate vision of safe and affordable housing for formerly incarcerated people.
Our growing team is reaching more people.
As a small pilot program recently launched in 2018, we were working with limited resources. Our small team did not have enough time and people to accommodate the growing demand of people being released from prison and in need of housing. We needed someone to take a chance on an untested but innovative model that we believed, given the right resources, could not just operate but flourish.
The award made possible by Wells Fargo and Enterprise was a perfect fit. It provided the necessary resources to realize the full vision of Homecoming so that we could focus on the people who could benefit most. The wisdom and expertise of our growing program team are helping move people into housing faster and safely.
For example, we hired a housing engagement and marketing coordinator who serves as a liaison between the hosts and staff. Having a dedicated staff member in this position allows us to think more intentionally about how to recruit more hosts and share the benefits of Homecoming far and wide.
Additionally, we added another community navigator to advance our level of community care. Not only are we meeting basic everyday needs like food, transportation and access to benefits, we can now go above and beyond for our participants. For example, we’ve been able to offer housing extensions for clients who are struggling to find employment due to Covid-19. We’re meeting participants where they’re at.
We’ve also connected with our clients on a more personal level through our support line, where we provide access to resources often unavailable in prison, including internet access, guidance and referrals.
We’re building community.
Our Homecoming participants are creating and nurturing their own community from the moment they return home, and well after they’ve moved on from the program. And they want to pay it forward. One graduate has since become a homeowner and has expressed interest in hosting a participant in his new home.
Surrounded and supported by the community, Homecoming participants are thriving. One participant even got off parole early because of the stability and progress he made while in our program. Imagine the outward ripple effects of releasing someone from the grasp of the carceral system so that they can truly be free to live their life. Not only does this benefit people returning home, it also has the potential to significantly reduce correctional costs, which could instead be reinvested directly back into communities.
This is just the beginning.
We are keeping our eyes on the prize, which is a more humane legal system and affordable and safe housing for all formerly incarcerated people. The Homecoming Project is showing the nation that if you embrace people upon their release from prison, they in turn will embrace their communities. This is how we create safer communities.