Permanent Supportive Housing for Offenders
- Corporation for Supportive Housing, Ohio
- Criminal Justice
“We have participated in many rigorous studies on supportive housing in the past, but very little has been done on the prison population."
From the first night of release, a recent offender needs a place to sleep at night. However, when a person is incarcerated, it can lead to the loss of their job, housing, and personal relationships. Their eventual exit from prison should be a moment of hope, but instead many face a world with even fewer supports than before.
People with conviction histories also face discrimination in housing and employment that can prevent them from finding a home and stable job. Whether it be an emergency shelter, friend’s couch, or park bench, most recent offenders only have temporary housing arrangements upon reentry into society. Not only are these situations impermanent; they are often unstable. Homelessness becomes a person’s last resort, and more than 50,000 people enter shelters directly from correctional facilities each year.
Homelessness and the criminal justice system are deeply intertwined. Those experiencing homelessness are more likely to interact with the criminal justice system, and those currently or previously involved in the criminal justice system are more likely to then experience homelessness. Without an intervention, people can face a deadly cycle alternating between the two.
The moment someone leaves prison is a precarious time where stability is key to success. One of the most prominent challenges during re-entry is housing insecurity. Given that one quarter of people in jail have a severe mental illness, mental health treatment is an essential aspect of housing services for the recently incarcerated. Though there has been increased focus on mental health programs for offenders in recent years, many fail to address housing insecurity. Without addressing both housing and mental health, there is limited progress which can be made in either category.
Finding solutions that allow people to be stably housed during re-entry are important to unlocking progress in many areas, including employment, family relations, and mental health treatment. As a result, communities across the country are looking for interventions that successfully combine housing security and mental health treatment for the recently incarcerated.
The Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) is a national organization which targets its programs at individuals who they believe would be living on the street if not for their intervention. Due to the extremely serious alternatives that their clients face, they provide what is known as permanent supportive housing. This housing is quality, affordable, and non-time limited, with additional supports offered according to the tenants’ needs.
CSH serves offenders released from incarceration through two supportive housing programs: Returning Home Ohio and the Community Transition Program. Both provide housing, intensive case management, mental health treatment, workforce development, childcare, and healthcare to clients.
Additionally, what sets these programs apart from other halfway houses or emergency shelters available is that CSH is able to enroll high-risk offenders while they are still incarcerated, so that they can provide assistance immediately upon their exit. This immediate assistance is vital since every day of being homeless increases an individual’s risks.
Although there is no time limit, the average amount of time an individual resides in the supportive housing offered through these programs is 1.71 years. While the recidivism rate for the entire state of Ohio is 31%, it is only 7% for participants in Ohio’s Community Transition Program. CSH is hopeful that this is a sign of their program’s success in both keeping offenders stably housed and avoiding reincarceration.
Does supportive housing targeted to moderate and high risk offenders with behavioral health needs have a significant impact on recidivism, housing stability, and public service costs?
Individuals who receive permanent supportive housing will have:
- Greater housing stability over following years.
- Improved participation in behavioral health services.
- Decreased recidivism rates.
- Higher earnings and decreased instances of unemployment.
Research Study Design
LEO is conducting a randomized controlled trial (RCT) on both of CSH’s programs for the recently incarcerated in Ohio to evaluate the impact of permanent supportive housing on recidivism, housing stability, income, employment, and participation in behavioral health services.
Individuals are eligible for Returning Home Ohio if they are in need of housing assistance and have had a diagnosis of a serious and persistent mental illness or HIV. Similarly, individuals are eligible for the Community Transition Program if they are assessed to be in need of rapid rehousing or permanent supportive housing, and they participated in recovery services while incarcerated. There are expected to be more eligible individuals applying for CSH’s programs than there are available spots, so CSH has agreed to randomly assign eligible individuals to either the treatment or control group. Those in the treatment group will receive access to permanent supportive housing. During that time, they will be enrolled in intensive case management and have access to mental health treatment, workforce development, childcare, and healthcare. Those in the control group will not have access to permanent supportive housing, but they will be directed to other community resources.
Baseline data will be obtained from the intake survey. LEO hopes to collaborate with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections, the Ohio Department of Medicaid, and the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services to access data for recidivism, health, earnings, employment, and housing stability outcomes. Up to now, studies of permanent supportive housing for recent offenders are mainly qualitative. This study hopes to provide more rigorous RCT research on the topic. If the evidence shows that permanent supportive housing is effective in improving outcomes, this will increase CSH’s ability to expand the program and ultimately serve more individuals.
In partnership with the Fitzgerald Institute for Real Estate