In 'Nowhere to Go' the Prison Policy Initiative provides the first national snapshot of homelessness among formerly incarcerated people, which it calls a ‘little-discussed housing and public safety crisis.’
The report explains how people returning from prison, who need stable homes to overcome the difficulties of reentry, are nevertheless excluded from housing: Over 2% of formerly incarcerated people are homeless, and nearly twice as many are living in precarious housing situations close to homelessness. The risk of homelessness increases the more times one has been to prison, which the report says us an irony considering that police departments regularly arrest and jail the homeless. People recently released from prison are most at risk of being homeless, with rates nearly 12 times higher than the general public. Women, black women in particular, are especially at risk.
The report’s author Lucius Couloute explains that landlords and public housing authorities ‘have wide discretion to punish people with criminal records long after their sentences are over.’ Mr Couloute’s report sets out policy solutions to what he calls a ‘fixable’ problem, including: regulating competitive housing markets to prevent blanket discrimination, creating statewide reentry systems to help recently-released Americans find homes, ending the criminalisation of homelessness in US cities, and, expanding social services for all homeless people, with a 'housing first' approach. The report is the second of three to be released by the Prison Policy Initiative this summer, focusing on the struggles of formerly incarcerated people to access employment, housing, and education. The report can be found here.