Reentry Supportive Housing Gaining Traction

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 03: A building is shown at Industry City in October 3, 2014 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 03: A building is shown at Industry City in October 3, 2014 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. Industry City, located in one of Brooklyn's oldest manufacturing hubs, consists of 16 renovated buildings housing 400 businesses and employing an estimated 3,000 workers. Friday was National Manufacturing Day in America. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Rebecca O'Brien of the Wall Street Journal authored an article this week that deserves attention.

It mirrors what advocates of reentry supportive housing have been saying for years about solutions to breaking the cycle consuming those leaving jails or prisons -- where they become homeless, then encounter the criminal justice system again, then return to jail, etc.

Individuals stuck in this revolving door are known as "frequent users" or "super utilizers" because they rely so heavily on costly emergency or crisis services. They are a small percentage of our population that ends up costing federal, state and local budgets a large amount of money.

Last year, we became part of a Reentry Housing Workgroup to develop a platform with recommendations for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Reentry is the term used to describe the transition from jail or prison back into communities. And we know that housing, particularly supportive housing, can increase the likelihood of successful reentry while reducing costs.

Progress has been made in improving access to housing for those leaving criminal justice facilities, but these advances are not nearly enough to address the full scope of the needs.

This week, in an open letter to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Mayor, we released un updated reentry housing platform, including statewide recommendations. The recommendations are intended to strengthen City and State efforts to address housing for people with criminal justice histories.

As amplified by the platform, these individuals deserve fair access, consistent with public safety, to supportive, affordable and market-rate housing in order to reinforce their successful reentry and reduce the risk of their reincarceration.

Furthermore, services such as medical care, mental-behavioral health recovery programs, and economic opportunity and other important life-skill trainings must be accessible to the men and women exiting criminal justice facilities to ensure successful transitions.

Although the updated platform focuses on New York State and City, the recommendations are applicable to any state or community in the nation and should be considered by policymakers throughout the country.

Most importantly, discrimination in affordable and market-rate housing is still a major issue. Because affordable housing is scarce, people with criminal records are often the first to be shut out, even though housing them is a cost-effective way to accomplish the public safety goals often cited by those wishing to exclude them.

All levels of government should adopt requirements making it clear housing that benefits from government funding cannot be denied to those with a criminal justice history unless there is a legitimate public safety reason for doing so.