Today we want to talk about housing. Stable housing is a huge need for people in reentry: for many, the private sector is not an option and they also may face legal restrictions from staying with friends and family in Section 8 Housing. Faced with such great obstacles, many look for transitional housing upon their release. Demand is always much higher than the number of beds that are available, leaving individuals incredibly vulnerable in their first few days and months back in the community.
Case in point: A New York Times article released this week, showed that every year approximately 72,000 people are released from prison in the state of Texas, yet only 1,800 are allocated beds in subsidizing housing, mostly in the form of halfway houses that have contracts with the state. Because of the overwhelming need for housing for most individuals being released from incarceration, priority often goes to those who either require close supervision or for those who lack the necessary familial and community resources to get by on their own.
But there are so many people being released into the community with absolutely minimal support facing seemingly impossible barriers as a result of collateral consequences! They lack a meaningful second chance to improve their lives and to become productive fulfilled members of their communities.
And while halfway houses pose a viable option for those seeking a supportive transition back into society, the opportunity often comes with a costly price tag. Hand Up, a for-profit halfway house founded by a formerly incarcerated individual, Mark Fronckiewicz and his wife, mentions how the $550 monthly cost for rent and utilities creates the largest barrier for those who seek this type of environment. Most people reintegrating back into their communities after incarceration simply can’t afford such high living expenses, especially with the challenge of finding and holding down a job when you have a criminal conviction.
Hand Up proves to be more holistic and thorough in its approach, most likely because it was run by someone who has been the struggles of reentry themselves. One resident spoke to the meaningful guidance he received from Mr. Fronckiewicz when it came to preparing a resume that helped him land a construction job. With fewer restrictions than most halfway houses, Hand Up residents find it more accommodating in their process of searching for employment and transitioning from life outside of prison. However, a lack of funding and the passing of the founder mean that the work is difficult to carry on.
Halfway houses can provide a stable environment for individuals who will otherwise lack a setting in which they can thrive. If such a setting creates such positive outcomes in the reentry process for those who are being released from incarceration, it is worth examining to see how these types of successes can be reproduced and made more accessible for people returning to society after incarceration.
Olivia Cahue-Diaz, Root & Rebound Summer Intern