Catch 22: Reentry Housing
Getting a roof over a reentrant’s head is a conundrum. It’s a Catch 22, described as a situation for which the solution is denied by a circumstance inherent in the problem. A reentrant needs a job. To get one, he needs somewhere to sleep. But without money from a job, he cannot rent a place to sleep.
When it comes to reentry, housing can be one of the most difficult needs to be met. Reentrants often leave the highly structured environment of prison or jail with no preparation or place to live, yet, study after study shows that unstable or nonexistent housing heightens the risk of being incarcerated again, and about 10% become homeless on day one after release.
Most people in prison or jail will tell you they plan to return to their families when they are released, and the lucky ones do. But a lot of families lack space or the money for extra food, and often familial and emotional bonds have been broken, through distance, time, or distrust. In some cases, conditions of parole may actually prevent them from returning to a friend or family because of their past relationship or because the family member has a criminal record.
Although there are wonderful ministries and agencies that provide transitional housing in Indiana, there aren’t nearly enough of them. 2nd Chance Indiana can connect a reentrant with a good job, we can train and mentor him, but where is he going to sleep with no first month’s rent, and no deposit? With a job and a few months of free bed and board, they can move on with money earned, to a small apartment, and begin to take their first steps to independence. We've seen it, and they can do it when the cards aren't stacked against them.
Some states are making strides in this direction. In Kansas, the Department of Correction partners with landlords to cover rent, utilities, and basic furnishings for reentrants as they get jobs and eventually move on. In Michigan the DOC and regional administrative agencies work with landlords to increase housing alternatives for homeless reentrants on parole across the state.
Forgive me if I’ve missed something, but Indiana doesn’t seem to have made a move in this direction. Every year, we need free or nominal housing for about 10% of our 260,000 total reentrants for a period of two to six months. To reduce recidivism and change lives for these 26,000 homeless reentrants, we need at least 8,650 available beds across Indiana if we are at all serious about giving them a fighting chance.
To start, we need a county by county survey of free reentry beds.
This is the next battle,