Vera Institute of Justice Expands Initiative to Increase Access to Public Housing for Formerly Incarcerated People
Date:  09-03-2018

Funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the initiative will implement reentry programs and improve admissions policies for people with conviction histories
The following press release was issued August 30, 2018 by Vera Institute of Justice:

NEW YORK, NY – Access to safe and affordable housing is a right often not afforded to formerly incarcerated people. Challenges such as affordability, restrictive housing policies, lack of employment and credit history, and the stigma of having a criminal conviction may hinder one’s chances of securing a place to live. Yet, for more than 600,000 people leaving prison and the nearly 11 million cycling through jails annually, research shows that safe, affordable housing is essential for them to succeed after they are released. At present, admissions criteria across much of the country’s public housing restricts people with conviction histories from either moving back in with their family members or obtaining their own housing on release.

Today, The Vera Institute of Justice (Vera), with support from the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), announced the expansion of their Opening Doors to Public Housing Initiative, a national project that aims to substantially change public housing admissions policies and reduce barriers that prevent people from safely and successfully reentering their communities once released from prison or jail. Two individual public housing authorities (PHAs) and two consortia of agencies were selected for this initiative through a competitive application process, including: Lafayette Housing Authority (LA), Oklahoma City Housing Authority (OK), Housing Authority of the County of San Diego in collaboration with five housing authorities (CA), and a state consortium of five agencies led by the Delaware State Housing Authority.

These eight lead PHAs vary in geography, the number and types of units managed, metropolitan population, and resident diversity. All of the PHAs have demonstrated a commitment to partnering with local law enforcement and other stakeholders.

“All of society benefits when formerly incarcerated people are able to reintegrate safely and successfully back into the community”, said Margaret diZerega, Project Director at the Vera Institute of Justice. “By partnering with housing authorities, residents, law enforcement, and community partners, we can assess admissions policies for people with conviction histories and facilitate safe reentry. We are deeply encouraged by the diverse array of housing authorities and agencies that are joining us in our movement to ensure that those released from jail and prison, and those whose families live in public housing, are able to return home.”

The BJA-funded cohort will receive up to 12 months of technical assistance to:

1. Safely increase access to housing for people with conviction histories or juvenile records to improve reentry outcomes and reduce recidivism rates.

2. Improve the safety of public housing and surrounding communities through the use of reentry housing strategies.

3. Promote collaboration between public housing authorities, law enforcement agencies, and other criminal justice stakeholders to effectively reduce crime and improve reentry outcomes for people leaving prisons and jails.

Since 2017, the Open Doors to Public Housing Initiative has worked with public housing authorities, community supervision agencies, and reentry service providers to promote family reunification and successful reentry outcomes for formerly incarcerated people. The new sites join a growing cadre of PHAs partnering with Vera to make similar reforms, including: Asheville (NC), New Orleans, New York City, Providence (RI), Springfield (MA), Tacoma (WA), and a state agency in Colorado.

Statements of Support:

“Housing is a key component of our criminal justice reinvestment, and certainly it is critical to establishing stability for our returning citizens. It is imperative we do everything we can to set up releasing offenders to succeed. I applaud the Lafayette Parish Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee, the Lafayette Housing Authority, and the Vera Institute for their unwavering commitment.” —James M. Le Blanc, Secretary, Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections

“The San Diego County District Attorney recognizes that homelessness has a significant nexus to public safety and a key factor in reducing recidivism are wraparound services for the homeless population. The District Attorney’s Office is committed to working with local housing authorities to create solutions that are inclusive to the justice-involved population, while ensuring public safety.” —Summer Stephan, Disstrict Attorney, San Diego County

“We are pleased to be working with all of Delaware’s public housing authorities on this important initiative that will contribute to Delaware’s efforts on reentry and criminal justice reform. The assistance provided by the Vera Institute will help review public housing policies for Delawareans with criminal histories, with the goal of creating a family reunification program with supportive services that will lead to better outcomes.”—Anas Ben Addi, Director, Delaware State Housing Authority

“Increasing access to public housing for formerly incarcerated people or those with conviction histories improves safety in all our communities. Securing safe, decent housing is often a prerequisite for employment, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and managing a successful transition to becoming a contributing member of society. With Vera’s assistance, we can work collaboratively on reviewing policies and implementing programs to better serve the justice population.” —William Citty, Chief, Oklahoma City Police Department