Homelessness is a serious problem for America’s formerly incarcerated people, and it’s even worse in the United Kingdom, published reports say.
In the United States there are approximately 700,000 individuals returning home from state prisons each year, formerly incarcerated according to the Journal of Community Corrections. Nine-million are released from county jails annually. Ten percent of the individuals leaving or entering prisons and jails are homeless in the months preceding and following incarceration, the report said.
In the UK, 15% of prisoners reported being homeless at sentencing, compared to the 37% who registered homeless post-release. In 2018, there were 320,000 people homeless in Britain, reported The-Conversation.com.
Figures from a 2017 analysis by the Housing Charity Shelter shows a 13,000 person rise in homelessness throughout the U.K., equivalent to one in every 200 people being homeless, the Nov. 4 article reported.
A 2012 study by the U.K.’s Ministry Of Justice reported that 37% of formerly incarcerated people have nowhere to live and that two-thirds of them will re-offend within a year.
“In my experience, housing is one of the most difficult needs to be met for returning ex-offenders upon release,” Patricia McKernan reported in the Journal of Community Corrections.
The reasons given by the formerly incarcerated in the UK for their recidivism are: the loss of housing accommodations at the time of arrest, a failing judicial system that does little to combat homelessness, and inadequate resources post-release, The- Conversation.com reported.
Unstable housing complicates all other targets of intervention for ex-offenders, said McKernan.
Incarcerated people are 10 times more likely to be home- less in the United States than the general public, reported the Prison Policy Initiative in August 2018.
Data from a Bureau of Justice Statistics survey showed that past incarceration and homelessness were directly linked, the Prison Policy report stated.
A hopeful sign for the formerly incarcerated in the U.K. was passage in 2018 of the Homelessness Reduction Act. It paved the way for local authorities to provide help to all homeless people, TheConversation.com reported.
Prior to the passage of the HRA, Britain’s homeless legislation provided that the formerly incarcerated could not receive help from the local authorities, where they served their prison term unless they could prove a local connection, the report said.
Frequently in California parolees are sent back to the county where they were sentenced. San Quentin inmate Kerry Rudd’s reaction was, “I don’t want to go back to where I was arrested. Being labeled a transient in Alameda County. I don’t want to parole to my county of commitment. I want something different. The other part is that I don’t have anything solid for where I want to go.”
Another San Quentin resident said, “Well, to be honest, I’m scared that when I get released, I’ll be homeless. I’m not from California, and I have no one in California.
Two hundred dollars gate money is not enough for me to just go back out into society and say, ‘Alright, I’m ready to do it right this time.’ I believe a lot of people are homeless because they have no family, fresh out of jail or prison with no support, and with mental illnesses.”
Both men had these suggestions to improve their chances of a successful transition back into society: more proactive participation from the prisons, local government agencies, and programs aimed at the short-termed of- fender, just as there are targeted programs for lifers.
“I believe a lot of people are homeless because they have no family, fresh out of jail or prison with no support, and with mental illnesses”
“Excluding formerly incarcerated people from safe and stable housing has devastating side effects. It can reduce access to healthcare services (including addiction and mental health treatment), make it harder to secure a job, and prevent formerly incarcerated people from access- ing educational programs,” PrisonPolicy.org reported.
In the United States, there are an estimated 550,000 people homeless, many of which have some sort of criminal justice system contact, PrisonPolicy.org reported.
With the passage of Britain’s Homeless Reduction Act, prisons are now required to inform the local authorities when someone deemed homeless is about to be released, and has made it obligatory for local authorities to provide help to (all) homeless people, whether they have a local connection or not, TheConversation.com report said.
A national survey of U.S. state parole agencies found that 60%, had no housing assistance program for post- released individuals, the Prison Policy Initiative noted in 2006.
Potential solutions to homeless problems mentioned by advocates include:
• States should develop more efficient interagency systems to help formerly incarcerated people find homes.
• States should remove the systematic barriers that the formerly incarcerated face, such as, ending aggressive enforcement of quality-of-life ordinances which prohibits people from acquiring housing based on past criminal offenses.
• Systems like “Housing First” programs should be implemented that assure the formerly incarcerated will have a successful approach to reintegration into society.
• Expand social services, and provide reentry programs that are all-inclusive.
• States should mirror Utah’s approach which has made it a budget priority to provide permanent housing for the chronically homeless. This approach acknowledges that stable living arrangements are necessary before people can address unemployment, illness, substance use disorders and other problems.