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|Discharge planning is a key element of preventing homelessness for people re-entering the community.|
Housing problems, including homelessness, are common among individuals leaving the corrections system. They tend to have limited or low incomes, and, often due to their criminal history, lack the ability to obtain housing through the channels that are open to other low-income people. As a result, one in five people who leave prison becomes homeless soon thereafter, if not immediately.
In fact, a California Department of Corrections study found that in major urban areas such as San Francisco and Los Angeles, the percentage of parolees who are homeless can be as high as 30 to 50 percent at any given time. Preliminary studies indicate that those who leave prison and become homeless are substantially more likely to return to prison than those with stable housing.
One effective model for addressing this problem is “re-entry housing,” which is subsidized housing with associated intensive support services directed especially toward people with disabilities. According to a cost analysis by the Corporation for Supportive Housing, a single re-entry housing unit in New York used by two people over one year can save $20,000 to $24,000 relative to the cost of release to shelter and re-incarceration.
Another common intervention involves working with the extended families of people leaving prison. About 80 percent of people leaving prison live with family members, at least initially. Many of these situations quickly become unstable and often result in homelessness. Work by the Vera Institute of Justice, however, has shown that providing a modest amount of services for these families can have a stabilizing impact, preventing both homelessness and recidivism.