The Homecoming Project: On Track and Motivated
A Holistic Approach to Community Innovation
Impact Justice is a national innovation and research center advancing new ideas and solutions for justice reform. We were founded on the idea that we would imagine, innovate, and accept absolutely nothing about the status quo of our current justice system.
People leaving prisons and returning home to their communities need immediate, stable housing. Before they can find jobs, reconnect with their loved ones, address health problems, or learn new skills, they first need a safe place to live. We looked at the success of Airbnb and the sharing economy, and saw a model that could be adapted to meet this need.
Our Homecoming Project was born.
Launched in 2018, the Homecoming Project prevents homelessness for a population that is too often excluded from opportunities to find and maintain an affordable home. The first of its kind in the reentry space, Homecoming is a social justice extension of the sharing economy. It pairs people returning home after long prison sentences, who are ready and able to live independently, with welcoming hosts who have a spare room in their home.
Homecoming is reinventing what reentry housing looks like, helping returning individuals more easily become part of their community and grow wealth to support their futures. This solution moves us closer to a future where housing is a human right.
We are so grateful that Enterprise Community Partners and Wells Fargo saw the potential of our program and chose to support our efforts to scale it up. One big question we must address is: How will we continue to build and maintain the resilience to keep innovating in these uncertain times? Here are five resolutions we have adopted to keep our project and team on track and motivated in the year ahead.
Resolution 1: Build confidence in our staff and the people doing the work.
One of our main priorities is to build confidence in our team’s abilities to carry out their work. Innovation thrives when space is created for creative energy to flow.
When we allow people to set their own pace and come up with creative solutions to everyday problems, unique solutions – much like our Homecoming Project – are developed.
This year, we will continue to set realistic goals and timelines, and provide support through professional development and training to meet these goals. We will also work to embrace change and be adaptive to better our communities. When we’re responsive and proactive instead of reactive, innovation thrives.
Resolution 2: Strengthen community partnerships.
There are so many amazing organizations working for social justice and criminal justice reform. This year, we’ll deepen our outreach to reach two groups: direct service providers and funders. A shared space to complement one another’s work will allow us to gain the most momentum.
Many of our systems would work better if we are better connected. For example, one of our participants had a health issue and thanks to a partnership between the Homecoming Project and Lifelong Medical Care, our participant had immediate access to a health care professional. They received the attention and medication they needed.
Resolution 3: Change the narrative of formerly incarcerated people.
The United States’ approach to criminal justice is centered around punishment. Much like how parents punish children who do something bad, such as time outs, we take away liberties and other fundamental human rights to people who cause harm. Yet we deprive them of opportunities for real rehabilitation and reintegration. Thus, we set them up for failure when they’re released back into the community.
Impact Justice believes in the tenants of restorative justice, where we recognize and value everyone's dignity and potential. We work intimately with communities across the country to implement restorative justice programs to meet the needs of people harmed while providing opportunities to take accountability for young people who cause harm. We’re also committed to redefining how we see people who’ve harmed.
Resolution 4: Address racial disparities in the criminal legal system.
Black and brown people are disproportionately impacted by the criminal justice system. The same systems that allow Black and brown people to be incarcerated at several times the rate of their white counterparts are the same systems that make these communities under-resourced and less able to support folks who are coming back home to be successful in their reentry journey.
This is why the Homecoming Project is committed to providing individualized care. We meet people where they’re at and leverage the community partnerships we’ve built to support their reentry successes. By helping to strengthen our participants, we strengthen the communities they live in, and ultimately, decrease these discrepancies.
Resolution 5: Prioritize community-based solutions.
Not all problems that arise in the criminal justice space should be met with criminal justice solutions. We believe the best solutions to these problems come from those in the community who face these issues daily. We center their experience and expertise to guide our work.
The Homecoming Project is a prime example of a win-win for both struggling homeowners and people coming home from prison. Beyond that, the program also benefits the wider community as it helps to build capital locally and keep families in their neighborhoods.
As we look to 2021 and beyond, we are energized by the possibilities that lie ahead. We’re taking our Homecoming Project from a pilot phase into one of significant growth and expansion. We are gearing up to house 120 people returning home from incarceration in Alameda and Contra Costa counties in California to allow deeper evaluation of the impacts of the program and prepare for larger replication and scale.
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