Innovative PHA Programs for Formerly Incarcerated Individuals

Several public housing authorities (PHAs) have proposed or implemented programs for formerly incarcerated individuals. The programs could serve as a starting point for advocates and PHAs working to develop local solutions for housing individuals returning to the community.

Baltimore, MD

Note: Baltimore is a Moving to Work jurisdiction.

WHAT TYPE OF HOUSING ASSISTANCE DOES THE PROGRAM PROVIDE?

The Housing Authority of Baltimore City (HABC) agreed to set aside 200 tenant-based Section 8 vouchers for participants.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE FOR THE PROGRAM?

To qualify for the program, individuals must be chronically homeless and enrolled in the Ex-Offender Program run by the Mayor’s Office on Criminal Justice (MOCJ).

WHAT IS THE REFERRAL PROCESS FOR PARTICIPANTS?

In collaboration with the MOCJ, Baltimore Homeless Services (BHS) will identify individuals. MOCJ will refer eligible individuals to HABC for a voucher, and BHS will help participants locate a suitable unit.

WHAT OTHER SERVICES ARE AVAILABLE TO PARTICIPANTS?

BHS will ensure that participants receive supportive services through the Housing First Program.

WHEN DID THE PROGRAM START?

BHA signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2009, but the program has not started. For more information on the proposed program, see the MOU.

Burlington, VT

WHAT TYPE OF HOUSING ASSISTANCE DOES THE PROGRAM PROVIDE?

A re-entry housing specialist at the Burlington Housing Authority (BHA) helps parolees locate private or subsidized housing. The housing specialist conducts an intake interview in custody or after release to assess potential barriers to housing. If the parolee would benefit from Offender Re-entry Housing Program (ORHP) services, the housing specialist speaks with parole to identify possible restrictions on housing placement, contacts local landlords on behalf of the parolee, and helps the parolee secure the funds needed to move-in.

If a parolee asks to live with a family member in an existing Section 8 voucher household and the housing specialist feels that the placement is appropriate, she makes a recommendation to the Director of Rental Assistance that the parolee be added to the voucher despite his or her criminal record.

Housing retention is a crucial component of ORHP. Once a parolee is in housing, the housing specialist offers classes on budgeting, relationship building with landlords and neighbors, life skills, and crisis prevention and resolution. In addition, if problems arise with the tenancy, the housing specialist acts as the first point of intervention. The housing specialist works with the parolee to resolve the matter and continue the tenancy.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE FOR THE PROGRAM?

Parolees returning to Chittenden County are eligible for ORHP.

WHAT IS THE REFERRAL PROCESS FOR PARTICIPANTS?

A parolee does not need a referral to receive services from ORHP. But, a caseworker from the Department of Corrections, a parole officer, or a case manager will often refer a parolee to BHA.

HOW DOES BHA ENCOURAGE LANDLORDS TO PARTICIPATE IN THE PROGRAM?

As a tool to recruit landlords, BHA started to require that parolees sign a lease addendum. The addendum makes major lease terms parole conditions, meaning parole could impose sanctions for substantial or repeated serious lease violations. BHA found that the lease addendum gives reluctant landlords peace of mind.

WHAT OTHER SERVICES ARE AVAILABLE TO PARTICIPANTS?

BHA collaborates with community organizations that provide services such as mental health treatment, substance abuse treatment, job training and employment placement, and transitional housing.

WHEN DID THE PROGRAM START?

The Department of Corrections awarded a grant to the Burlington Community Justice Center and the Winooski Community Justice Center to implement re-entry services in 2004. The Burlington CJC subcontracted with BHA in January of 2005 to start ORHP.

WHAT IS THE SUCCESS RATE OF THE PROGRAM?

Between July 1, 2008 and June 30, 2009, ORHP placed a total of 52 individuals in housing. ORHP placed 32 of the 52 individuals with a housing subsidy, adding 10 of the 32 individuals to an existing Section 8 voucher household. Ninety-seven percent of ORHP clients received housing retention services.

In the same time period, five ORHP clients lost housing due to re-incarceration, and three individuals lost housing due to a different reason, such as financial strain. BHA reports that individuals who secure a housing subsidy remain in housing at a much higher rate than individuals who do not. For more information on the OHRP, see the BHA Policy and Procedure Manual.

Cuyahoga County, OH

WHAT TYPE OF HOUSING ASSISTANCE DOES THE PROGRAM PROVIDE?

The Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority set aside two floors of a public housing development for the Open Door program. Y-Haven, a project of the YMCA, operates the program. Participants live in the development for a maximum of 18 months. Those who complete the program are given the option to move into a conventional public housing unit. The program is free to all participants, with funding from the Cuyahoga County Office of Reentry and the Greater Cleveland Integrated Re-Entry Project, a program of the Center for Families and Children.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE FOR THE PROGRAM?

Men 18 or older who have been released from prison or jail within the past two years are eligible for the program. Participants must have been working with one of the referring agencies for at least 3 months before entering the program.

WHAT IS THE REFERRAL PROCESS FOR PARTICIPANTS?

Several local service agencies refer men to the program. Participants must continue to work with a case manager for the duration of the program. Y-Haven screens prospective participants to determine who will be a good fit.

WHAT OTHER SERVICES ARE AVAILABLE TO PARTICIPANTS?

Participants receive case management services from the referring provider throughout the program, and the referring provider is responsible for responding to situations that take place after normal business hours. A Y-Haven social worker is on site from 9 am to 5 pm. Participants also have access to other services in the building, including food and healthcare.

WHEN DID THE PROGRAM START?

The Open Door program began in the fall of 2010.

King County, WA

Note: King County is a Moving to Work jurisdiction.

WHAT TYPE OF HOUSING ASSISTANCE DOES THE PROGRAM PROVIDE?

The King County Housing Authority (KCHA) agreed to provide project-based Section 8 vouchers to cover the operating costs of a 46-unit transitional housing development. Participants will live at Passage Point for between 18 and 24 months. At the end of the transitional period, participants will have the option to move into a conventional public housing unit without undergoing additional screening.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE FOR THE PROGRAM?

Parents who are leaving state prison and reuniting with children are eligible for the program.

WHAT IS THE REFERRAL PROCESS FOR PARTICIPANTS?

Unknown.

WHAT OTHER SERVICES ARE AVAILABLE TO PARTICIPANTS?

The YWCA will provide on-site wrap-around services to program participants, including life skills and parenting skills classes and job search assistance.

WHEN DID THE PROGRAM START?

The development is scheduled for completion in 2011. King County and the YWCA faced significant opposition to the program. A nonprofit group of residents and landowners, the Cedar Hills Rural Preservation Alliance, filed suit to block the use of the site as transitional housing. King County, the YWCA, and CHRPA settled the suit in late 2009. Under the terms of the settlement, individuals who have a conviction for a serious violent offense, a sex offense, or arson, as defined under Washington law, are ineligible. The YWCA must also undertake a number of site modifications and maintain certain security measures, such as screening residents’ guests for a criminal record. In addition, YWCA must hire a staff member to act as a liaison between Passage Point residents and the local school district.

Note: KCHA also operates innovative programs for chronically homeless individuals, and because the programs use minimal screening criteria, the programs often serve individuals with a criminal record.

Sponsor-Based, Scattered Site Supportive Housing

In 2007, KCHA began using a sponsor-based scattered site model to house individuals who are chronically homeless and frequent users of County shelters, jails, and hospitals. KCHA provides lump-sum Section 8 subsidies to mental health agencies that use the funds to master lease units from private landlords. The sponsors then sign subleases with program participants and serve as intermediaries between private landlords and participants. The model insulates landlords from the financial risks of renting to “hard-to-house” individuals.

The sponsors screen out participants who fall under one of the two federal bars or have an arson conviction. According to the KCHA, most participants have a criminal and/or credit history that would prevent them from passing a standard background check. Wrap-around services are not required, but are available to participants through funding from the state, the County, and the United Way. KCHA furnishes the units and provides funding for security deposits.

In 2007, the program housed over 25 individuals, with 21 remaining in housing for at least six months. Most participants reported that health outcomes improved and drug and alcohol use decreased. In the first year, jail bookings among participants decreased 76 percent. For more information, see the South King County Housing First Pilot: Innovations and Lessons Learned.
In 2010, KCHA plans to house over 100 individuals using the sponsor-based model.

Site-Based Supportive Housing

In 2009, with funding from the County, KCHA acquired Pacific Court, a 32-unit, 50-bedroom failed condominium conversion site. KCHA is using public housing subsidies to cover the operating costs of the development. Sound Mental Health, a local mental health organization, offers on-site services to participants seven days a week. Individuals who are chronically homeless and have a serious mental illness are eligible for the program. Prospective participants do not go through the KCHA waiting list process. Instead, Sound Mental Health refers prospective participants to KCHA. KCHA screens out individuals who fall under one of the two federal bars or have an arson conviction.

New Haven, CT

Note: New Haven is a Moving to Work jurisdiction.

WHAT TYPE OF HOUSING ASSISTANCE DOES THE PROGRAM PROVIDE?

The Housing Authority of New Haven (HANH) established a pilot program that will give up to 12 formerly incarcerated individuals preferential placement on the public housing waitlist. The program will also allow certain individuals returning to the community to rejoin family members living in public housing.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE FOR THE PROGRAM?

To qualify for the pilot program, individuals must agree to complete an action plan and receive case management services from the HANH Resident Services Coordinator. In addition, participants who do not have a disability must work for a minimum of 14 hours each week, enroll in a job training program, or enroll in a treatment program.

WHAT IS THE REFERRAL PROCESS FOR PARTICIPANTS?

The City Of New Haven Re-entry Coordinator will refer eligible individuals to HANH. HANH will make the final decision to admit or deny each applicant.

WHAT OTHER SERVICES ARE AVAILABLE TO PARTICIPANTS?

HANH will complete a needs assessment and develop an action plan for participants. The Resident Services Coordinator will meet with participants each week for case management services and will refer participants to appropriate community organizations for healthcare, job training, employment placement, and mental health or substance abuse treatment. Participants who remain in compliance with the action plan and parole or probation for 12 months will graduate from the program.

WHEN DID THE PROGRAM START?

The HANH Board of Commissioners voted to approve the program in March, 2010.

Oakland, CA

Note: Oakland is a Moving to Work jurisdiction

WHAT TYPE OF HOUSING ASSISTANCE DOES THE PROGRAM PROVIDE?

OHA set aside a revitalized 12-unit public housing complex for participants, who live at the complex for up to 18 months. At the end of the transitional period, participants can move into conventional public housing.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE FOR THE PROGRAM?

The Maximizing Opportunities for Mothers to Succeed (MOMS) program serves single pregnant women and single mothers of young children incarcerated in the county jail. To qualify for housing assistance, the women must complete an eight-week course in custody. Run by the Inmate Services Unit in the county jail, the course covers drug abuse, mental health, parenting skills, personal skills, and literacy and education.

WHAT IS THE REFERRAL PROCESS FOR PARTICIPANTS?

The Alameda County Sheriff’s Department refers women to OHA.

WHAT OTHER SERVICES ARE AVAILABLE TO PARTICIPANTS?

Participants receive case management services. Community organizations provide drug and alcohol treatment, parenting skills classes, money management classes, and resume writing workshops onsite.

WHEN DID THE PROGRAM START?

The Alameda County Sheriff’s Department started the MOMS program in 1999. OHA added the housing component in 2003.

WHAT IS THE SUCCESS RATE OF THE PROGRAM?

Unknown.

Portland, OR

Note: Portland is a Moving to Work jurisdiction

WHAT TYPE OF HOUSING ASSISTANCE DOES THE PROGRAM PROVIDE?

The Housing Authority of Portland (HAP) offers rental assistance to formerly incarcerated individuals for up to 18 months. SE Works, a local workforce development organization, administers the program. Participants can use the rental assistance in transitional or permanent housing. The amount of rental assistance decreases over time based on household income and the size of the unit.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE FOR THE PROGRAM?

Parolees who must find employment as a condition of parole and are enrolled in the Portland Partners Re-entry Initiative (PPRI) or Community Partners Reinvestment Project (CPRP) are eligible. Both PPRI and CPRP help individuals returning to the community find work. SE Works intends to serve 20 individuals each year.

WHAT IS THE REFERRAL PROCESS FOR PARTICIPANTS?

Unknown.

WHAT OTHER SERVICES ARE AVAILABLE TO PARTICIPANTS?

SE Works offers case management, job training, and employment services. In addition, funding is available to pay off fines and fees, repair credit histories, and save for permanent housing.

WHEN DID THE PROGRAM START?

HAP launched the program in 2009.

WHAT IS THE SUCCESS RATE OF THE PROGRAM?

Early data shows that participants found appropriate housing faster than individuals who receive Section 8 voucher assistance from HAP. Seventy-three percent of participants signed a lease in under 30 days, compared to 32 percent of Section 8 voucher holders. HAP will continue to collect data on: (1) the length of time it takes for participants to complete an education or training program and employment; (2) the length of time it takes participants to attain a living wage; (3) the average amount of rental assistance participants receive each month; (4) the housing stability of participants three, six, and nine months after exit from the program; and (5) the employment stability of participants three, six, and nine months after exit from the program.

MOU

BHA Policy and Procedure Manual

This page was supported in part by a grant from the Soros Justice Fellowships Program of the Open Society Institute.