Housing for Justice-Involved Persons

Many people who have served time for various crimes have difficulty adjusting to life after release. In many cases, there is difficulty interacting with people, especially if they have been in prison for years. Some are lucky enough to be able to live with family, while others are not so lucky. Others prefer to remain independent as they start life after serving their time. Unfortunately, for many former prisoners, it is difficult to find suitable sustainable housing.

Some people are reluctant to rent houses to felons. Depending on the type of crime they were incarcerated for, even if they find housing, their neighbors may be less than welcoming.

There are options for justice-involved persons. Here a re some examples:

Halfway Houses

Halfway houses are the most common form of housing option for felons, particularly if they are recently released from prison. Many people end up in halfway houses, also called transitional houses after serving time in prison. This provides housing and allows the former inmate to adjust to society. Often, the Idaho Department of Correction will subsidize the first month of rent at approved halfway houses.

Some felons are released to a halfway house immediately after being released on parole. Halfway houses are operated in a structured way and occupants have to follow the rules for living there. They will be assigned duties, and will be subjected to unscheduled checks of their rooms to ensure that there is no contraband. Despite the rules, the environment itself is far less rigid than prison, and tenants have more freedom than they did while incarcerated.

Many halfway houses in Idaho are simply residences which have been converted into a transitional home simply by adding additional beds to each bedroom. There may be as many as ten parolees living in a halfway house at any given time.

Section 8 Housing

The Housing Act provides assistance with rent payments to private landlords. This benefit is for low-income persons as well as felons. As one would expect, there is a waiting list. In fact, in some areas, the authorities have stopped accepting new applications. With this kind of demand, it is easy to see that someone with a conviction would have a difficult time getting approval.

Not all felons are eligible for Section 8 housing. The following crime categories are not able to benefit under Section 8:

  • Sex offenders
  • Drug traffickers
  • Certain categories of fraud
  • Violent crimes

In some cases, regardless of the nature of the felony, the applicant will not be considered unless a specified number of years have passed.

Housing Grants

Former felons are able to apply for housing grants as another means of finding affordable housing. One example of this is the work of Catholic Charities that assist former felons in a number of ways. Other churches also have their own programs for assisting former inmates.

Some housing grants for felons also exist in the form of Federal aid, although getting approval can sometimes be difficult. Due to the number of applications, response time can be lengthy. A good place to get information on housing help for felons is the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). While HUD does not provide grants, it can point felons in the right direction.

There is a lot of room for improvement in housing services. There are few services available in more rural towns. In the larger cities in Idaho there are quite a few more options, but the amenities are not standardized and the housing conditions themselves can be counterproductive to rehabilitation and success reintegrating into society.

BarNone will be hosting a Summit on Housing in May 2020 to discuss the housing needs, barriers, gaps and opportunities in the Treasure Valley for justice-involved persons. To find out more, please check back for updates or “like” our Facebook page.

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Author: BarNone, Inc.

BarNone, Inc. is a Boise, Idaho-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose purpose is threefold: 1. Awareness: holding Idaho Reentry Summit events, conducting social media campaigns and speaking to Idahoans to encourage communication, collaboration and education of the criminal legal system, statistics, and the people who are impacted by incarceration. 2. Advocacy: working with members of the Legislature, municipalities and agencies to impact policy. 3. Resources: connecting people with community resources and support when they are returning to their community after a period of incarceration and centralizing the information for those resources.