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Alabama: Preventing Homelessness Among Reentering Prisoners
Best Practice | August 18, 2006
Alabama is facing a self-professed crisis with its prison system. Its facilities are packed to twice their intended capacity and most funding for rehabilitative services has been cut. More than half of Alabama's prisoners are repeat offenders. There are no State-supported reentry housing, reentry employment programs, or case management services. The number of serious and violent female offenders is drastically on the rise. An estimated 600 females are released from Alabama's prisons annually, with 240-360 of them deemed "high-risk to recidivate" offenders.
To reduce recidivism and help meet the unique needs of female offenders with children, three community organizations have banded together on the Reentry Initiative. Aid to Inmate Mothers, Aletheia House, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham's Treatment Alternatives to Street Crime will work with the Department of Economic and Community Affairs to develop a comprehensive reentry program that uses existing resources to help female offenders reintegrate into communities throughout the state. Case managers will assess offenders and prepare individualized reentry plans that include in-prison and community-based services. Aid to Inmate Mothers and Aletheia House will focus on family therapy and counseling, so that the mothers may re-establish healthy relationships with their children. Aid to Inmate Mothers will facilitate communication between mothers and their children. Aletheia House will provide both short-term and long-term supportive housing.
Over three years, a total of up to 160 high-risk, serious and violent female offenders, ranging in age from 25-35 years old, will be recruited voluntarily for the initiative from Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women.
Short-term residential housing will consist of a monitored, very restrictive, strictly governed 28-unit apartment building in Ensley Highlands. This all-women complex will be located in a mixed-income area in West Birmingham, complete with an on-site manager, room inspections, curfew, and drug and alcohol testing. Male visitors will be prohibited. After four months, participants will be able to move into less restrictive supportive housing. For example, eligible mothers will be able to apply to "Aletheia House Family Transitional Housing" to live with children in one of 30 single family homes operated by Aletheia House and funded by HUD.
For individuals without children, "Next Step" reentry housing will be available after the completion of the four months in restricted housing. In "Next Step" housing, there is much less monitoring and three individuals share a single family, three-bedroom home. These three-bedroom homes are scattered around Birmingham, and the clients may perform their own cooking and cleaning, though they will still have transportation to classes or substance abuse treatment.
Aletheia House also operates a long-term housing program for individuals who have completed reentry housing. This consists of independent, scattered-site housing with supportive services. In addition, Aletheia refers ex-offenders to other programs, including Birmingham Healthcare Single Room Occupancy program, YWCA permanent housing program, Jefferson County's Shelter Plus Care program, public housing, and Section 8 (where applicable).
The Department of Economic and Community Affairs will receive $1,006,075 from the Department of Justice through the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative. Also, Aletheia House receives certain federal funding for their substance abuse treatment, homeless veterans programs, and workforce investment. HUD funds portions of the "Aletheia House Family Transitional Housing Program" through allocations for supportive housing that targets women with dependent children. HUD's supportive housing funds also cover 18 Aletheia beds for men without children and 12 beds for women without children. Through SAMSHA, Aletheia receives $125,000 for substance abuse and HIV prevention education, services, and treatments, which are targeted toward minority youth. They also receive a "Public Housing Drug Elimination Fund" grant through HUD for their "Kids who Care" summer day camp.
The new housing developments are financed with Low Income Housing Tax Credits, HOME, the Federal Home Loan Bank's Affordable Housing Program, as well as a mortgage. Shelter Plus Care and Housing Choice Vouchers will subsidize the rents of many of the residents. Many clients also rely on SSI and food stamps. Arm South Bank has given Aletheia House an $189,500 subsidy to renovate an abandoned 19-unit apartment building in older, inner-city Birmingham, which is used to house families that would otherwise become homeless.
Aletheia House also receives community donations. For example, in FY 2003, they received over $380,000 from United Way of Central Alabama. Their main source of income, however, is self-funding. After Aletheia locates jobs for its clients, it charges them fees, which are used to keep the system running.
For more information about Aletheia House, contact:
For more information on Alabama's plan, contact:
Kathleen A. Rasmussen, Ph.D.
ADECA Law Enforcement & Traffic Safety Division
Phone (334) 242-5813
Fax (334) 242-0712