Where returning citizens find a warm welcome in the homes of local residents
People with room for a boarder are helping provide housing for some former California prisoners.
The Homecoming program was launched in 2018 in Alameda County to provide formerly incarcerated people places to live — with plans to expand across the United States.
“For people getting out of prison, the penalty hasn’t ended and reentry is its own obstacle course that everybody has to navigate; and housing is essential to being able to get through that obstacle course,” said Alex Busansky, a former prosecutor and president of Impact Justice told NPR.
“If you don’t have a place to sleep, to shower, to keep your things, it’s very difficult to think about doing anything else,”
The project provided housing for 12 ex-prisoners since August 2018, according to November/December article in Mother Jones.
People recently released from long-term custody were connected with homeowners willing to rent them a room for up to six months. Hosts are paid $25 a day, with no cost to former inmates.
Hosts and potential tenants undergo a rigorous screening process. The goal is to create a positive living environment.
Sabina Crocette is now host to her second participant.
Her first, DeLora, 32, served eight years for conspiracy to distribute heroin.
“I just saw her as a dynamic young woman who could come back into the community and be a great resource to others,” Crocette told KPIX.” You have to recognize people’s humanity. People are not the thing they have done. That is not who they are.”
Crocette, a civil rights attorney working with prisoner rights organizations, met her second tenant, London Croudy, before she moved into her townhouse.
Croudy served eight years of a 13-year sentence for conspiracy to distribute heroin. She was released to a half-way house in Oakland operated by GEO Group, a for-profit organization.
There she had to share a room with several other people, the food and the beds were the same as when she was in prison, with an hour for recreation.
“Just pretty much a step over incarceration,” she said. “Still walking around with fear.”
Everything changed when she moved in with Crocette. Thinking she might be sleeping on the floor, she saw her own bedroom with a queen-size bed and a dresser dotted with fake candles. “This peace just came over me,” Croudy said.
The Bay Area is a hard place for people returning from custody to find a place to live with its absurdly overpriced housing, Mother Jones noted.
Terah Lawyer, a Homecoming Project program manager, said applicants have told her that they’d be happy to sleep in a box in someone’s backyard. “They will settle for less because they think that they deserve less.”
She knows the challenges first hand. After serving 15 years in prison, she was placed in a residential treatment facility in San Francisco where she had to attend substance abuse classes weekly even though she did not have a substance abuse problem.
In fact, at the time she was a certified drug and alcohol counselor able to facilitate the groups she had to attend.
Lawyer used this experience to shape the programs at the Homecoming Project to encourage independence while offering support.
Sholly Kehinee, 30, scheduled for parole from San Quentin in five months, said “I had no place of residency. But I got word of the Homecoming Project and because of them, it’s gonna be possible after seven years.” He hopes it will aid his reunion with his son.
—By Alfred King