Building Second Chances: Tools for Local Reentry Coalitions

PARTS 1 & 2

This toolkit is designed for local city, county, and community leaders who want to play an active role in improving reentry policy, practice, and outcomes. Within, you will find user-friendly references to seminal publications, research findings, and noteworthy examples of the foundational knowledge needed to design new reentry strategies and reinvigorate existing ones.

Connect people to safe, stable, affordable housing Icon of pdf document

Finding housing can be one of the most immediate and dire challenges people face upon leaving prison or jail. This part of the toolkit will help you prioritize linking people to housing as critical goal for your local reentry coalition’s efforts. It includes information on engaging providers and organizations in solutions that make it easier for people in reentry to obtain housing, with the ultimate goal of placing people in permanent housing situations.

The Questions to Consider in this section will help you determine what reentry housing opportunities exist in your community:

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Questions to Consider
Circular icon of hand appearing to hold a house Do you know what public housing authority policies affect your reentry population?
Public housing authorities are a central provider of subsidized housing and face high demand. At the state and local levels, these agencies exercise broad discretion regarding admission and eviction. Each local public housing authority has an administrative plan that specifies its policies governing criminal background checks and the admission of people with criminal records. Reviewing these policies will enable your local reentry coalition to understand any restrictions that apply to the reentry population in your community. If your coalition develops a strong relationship with the public housing authority, you may be able to work together to institute less restrictive policies and expand housing opportunities for the reentry population.
Circular icon of a person in a wheelchair Are there housing services tailored to specific reentry subpopulations?
Many communities offer specialized housing services for certain populations, including military veterans, people with mental illnesses and/or substance use disorders, people with disabilities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer (LGBTQ) people. If such services are available to the reentry population in your community, familiarize yourself with their eligibility criteria to help ensure that you are maximizing these opportunities.
Circular icon of a home crossed out Are you familiar with your local Continuum of Care’s homelessness prevention initiatives?
Your local reentry coalition will benefit from tapping into local housing expertise and resources that are already in place. Every community has a Continuum of Care (CoC)—a partnership of public agencies and community organizations that provide housing assistance and supportive services, leading the community’s efforts to end homelessness. Funded through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), your CoC directs what is known as “coordinated entry,” a standardized process by which people experiencing or at risk of homelessness are assessed and referred to available housing and services. Members of the CoC also provide services such as street outreach, housing counseling, emergency shelter, and permanent housing. In recent years, HUD has provided funding opportunities that incentivize CoCs to partner with law enforcement agencies and consider criminal justice populations; therefore, your local CoC may be motivated to focus on the population that is shared between the criminal justice system and homelessness service providers. If members of your reentry coalition are able to attend CoC meetings, they can work to connect the reentry population to the coordinated entry process as necessary.
Circular icon of two people connected by directional arrows Have you tried building relationships with local landlords and property managers?
Many communities have formalized partnerships with local landlords and property managers to increase access to housing for people leaving prison and jail. For example, some communities have created risk mitigation funds as a way to help encourage landlords to rent to people who have limited income, poor rental histories, or criminal records. These funds typically are used to cover partial costs to the landlord in the event of a tenant’s failure to pay rent or damage done to a building. Usually established by local governments, risk mitigation funds may include collaboration with local nonprofit service providers and landlord groups.

The Example from the Field below discusses how local agencies in Lane County, Oregon partnered to create policy changes to addresses housing needs for people on probation and parole:

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Example from the Field

Aligning Policies and Resources to Address a Community's Housing Needs

In Lane County, Oregon, three local agencies—Lane County Parole & Probation; Homes for Good, the housing agency overseeing the county’s public housing and Section 8 program; and Sponsors, the county’s leading community-based reentry service provider—have had a long-standing partnership to provide affordable housing for people with criminal records. The close communication and alignment of goals has led to several policy changes to better address housing needs for people on probation and parole. For example, Homes for Good removed all screening criteria that were related to criminal records but not mandated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Find out how (PDF) the partners used grant funding to provide permanent supportive housing for people leaving prison.

These Quick References will help you assess housing needs, learn strategies to find secure housing, and address ongoing issues related to homelessness/housing insecurity:

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Quick References

Assessing Housing Needs and Risks: A Screening Questionnaire (2017)
This questionnaire helps reentry professionals assess an individual’s unique housing needs and risk of homelessness upon returning to the community.

Homeless Assistance Programs
Search through this resource from HUD to find information about homelessness programming and related data in your community.

Justice Bridge Housing Program: A Successful Reentry Program of the Housing Authority of Union County, Pennsylvania [PDF] (2017)
This toolkit provides local jurisdictions with guidance for developing an effective housing and reentry strategy.

Strengthening Partnerships between Law Enforcement and Homelessness Service Systems (2019)
This brief highlights five emerging, cross-systems strategies that local law enforcement and homelessness response leaders can use to respond to people who experience unsheltered homelessness and have frequent contact with law enforcement.

Infectious Disease Toolkit for Continuums of Care (2020)
This toolkit offers resources for planning and responding to influenza, coronavirus, and other infectious diseases and contains information for CoC leadership, homeless service providers, and partners to plan for and address infectious diseases.