More than 11,400 people registered for the Homelessness and Housing First webinar hosted by NLIHC, the National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH), and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) on June 12!
The webinar, “Housing First Supports People Impacted by the Criminal Legal System,” examined the relationship between homelessness and mass incarceration, highlighted federal efforts to remove unnecessary barriers to housing for people with criminal records, and delved into state and local efforts to connect individuals impacted by the criminal legal system to housing and voluntary services using a Housing First approach.
NLIHC Policy Manager Kim Johnson moderated the webinar. In her opening remarks, Kim highlighted the vital importance of providing people exiting incarceration and those with conviction histories a safe, affordable home to return to. She emphasized that housing is fundamental to public safety and to the successful reentry of those exiting incarceration.
Representative Nanette Barragán (D-CA), co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Homelessness, explained that Housing First programs are critical to successful reentry because they quickly meet an individual’s basic human need for a safe place to call home and then provide them with an opportunity to choose to participate in life-changing services. Representative Barragán recently introduced the “Returning Home Act” (H.R.2994), which provides funding to government and community organizations dedicated to breaking down barriers to housing for people who were formerly incarcerated through a Housing First approach.
Anna Bailey, senior policy analyst with CBPP, provided a brief overview of incarceration trends from a national perspective, highlighting that people impacted by the criminal legal system are more likely to experience homelessness than the general public. Anna emphasized that the dramatic racial disparities in incarceration rates are driven by systemic racism and noted the wide-ranging collateral consequences of incarceration. She also discussed how an increasing number of studies demonstrate that Housing First strategies can be highly effective in keeping people who were formerly incarcerated stably housed and helping them avoid future interaction with the criminal legal system.
Victoria Jennings, supportive housing analyst with the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority (IHCDA), spoke about two IHCDA Housing First programs that serve individuals who have been incarcerated: the HOME Tenant-Based Rental Assistance (TBRA) program and a permanent supportive housing program currently in the planning stages. IHCDA’s Housing First program, which began about 15 years ago, has resulted in the development of about 52 projects and more than 1,500 units that end homelessness for about 275 Hoosiers each year.
Richard Cho, senior advisor for housing and services at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), discussed actions the Biden administration is taking to prioritize the housing needs of people impacted by the criminal legal system. HUD is in the process of developing a Notice of Proposed Rule Making in which it proposes to change its regulations governing public housing agencies and HUD-subsidized housing providers to prevent unnecessary denials of housing assistance to people with criminal history records. The new guidance will send a clear message that nobody should be automatically denied access to HUD programs simply because they have a criminal record.
Veronica Lewis, director of the Homeless Outreach Program Integrated Care System (HOPICS) – one of the largest housing and homeless service providers in Los Angeles County – discussed HOPICS’ reentry housing programs. She explained how HOPICS operates in three major systems of care: reentry services, substance use disorder and other outpatient behavioral health services, and housing and homeless services. Veronica emphasized that Housing First is not “housing only” and spoke about the strategic partnerships HOPICS has developed to provide wraparound supports to clients.
Taylar Nuevelle, founder and executive director of Who Speaks for Me? (WSFM), spoke about her organization’s Housing for All pilot project, which provides housing, a weekly stipend, and connection to wraparound services to five returning citizens that identify as women and/or LGBTQ people. Taylar shared a video of Mary, the first participant in the Housing for All program, and discussed how WSFM applied for a housing voucher from the D.C. Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs and is now using the funds that would have been spent on rent to provide Mary with guaranteed income.
During the moderated discussion, panelists expanded on how their programs meet the unique needs of each individual, connect clients to voluntary wraparound services, and leverage partnerships to implement a coordinated reentry system.
In her closing remarks, NLIHC’s Kim Johnson shared how the “Housing Promotes Livelihood and Ultimate Success (PLUS) Act” (H.R.3405), which was recently reintroduced by Representative Andy Barr (R-KY), would undermine efforts to end homelessness.
Resources Discussed on the Webinar:
- Housing First Resources (NLIHC)
- Talking points to oppose the “Housing PLUS Act”
- Fact sheet on the “Returning Home Act” (H.R.2994)
- IHCDA Housing First Program
- IHCDA HOME-TBRA Program
- HUD’s Reentry Housing Webpage
- HUD’s Action Plan to Remove Unnecessary Barriers to Housing for People with Criminal Records
- HOPICS Re-Entry Services
- Learn more about mass incarceration and the racial disparities in mass incarceration.
- Learn about incarceration in your state.
- Learn more about breaking the cycle between incarceration and homelessness from the Urban Institute and Vera.
- Who Speaks for Me? Video: Mary's Story
Register for the next Homelessness & Housing First webinar taking place on Monday, July 10 from 2:30 to 4:00 pm ET.Register at: https://bit.ly/3vIbn5o
Homelessness is a crisis in many communities – one that demands urgent action. To end homelessness once and for all, federal, state, and local governments must invest in proven solutions at the scale necessary to address the problem. The Housing First model is one of the best strategies for ending homelessness. Housing First recognizes that affordable and accessible homes are the foundation on which people thrive, and by combining housing with access to supportive services, Housing First can help people exit homelessness and live stably in their communities.
In communities across the nation, however, some misguided policymakers are responding to this crisis by advancing dangerous rhetoric and harmful, dehumanizing measures that will make it even harder for people to exit homelessness. It is critical that advocates nationwide are unified in pushing back against stigmatizing and counterproductive efforts that seek to criminalize homelessness, impose punitive requirements, and even prevent the development of affordable housing.
As our communities struggle with exorbitant rents, increased evictions, and, in many cases, more homelessness, it is more important than ever that advocates work together to advance the bold policies and anti-racist reforms needed to ensure stable, affordable, and accessible homes for all people experiencing and at risk of homelessness.
Learn more about Housing First at: https://bit.ly/3ViLyU6