Homelessness and Incarceration Are Intimately Linked. New Federal Funding is Available to Reduce the Harm of Both.

Homelessness is intimately linked with the criminal and juvenile justice systems. Almost 50,000 people a year enter homeless shelters immediately after exiting incarceration. And people returning from jail or prison face barriers to finding stable housing and employment due to legal restrictions and discrimination against those with criminal records.

People experiencing homelessness can also get pulled into the criminal or juvenile justice systems for misdemeanor offenses related to attempts to survive on the streets. They may be prosecuted for things like shoplifting or for publicly engaging in basic life activities like standing or sleeping — activities that would never be an offense when done in one’s home. The compounding effects of institutional racism result in the over-representation of people of color in the criminal justice system, which in turn pushes more people of color into homelessness.

While there is much work to be done on both sides of the cycle between incarceration and homelessness, reentry issues (preventing recidivism for people exiting correctional institutions) have been the focus of a bipartisan group of Congressional leaders for many years. This work yielded the Second Chance Act (SCA) in 2008. SCA provides funding for services like case management and substance abuse treatment which are intended to prevent people from returning to jail or prison. The recent Fiscal Year 2018 Omnibus Appropriations bill included a $17 million increase in SCA grants.

These funds can be used for homelessness support services, including services in permanent supportive housing!

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance recently released its solicitation for applications for this grant program. Applications for the Second Chance Act Comprehensive Community-Based Adult Reentry Grant Program are due May 1, 2018.

You can learn more about this important funding source and how nonprofit organizations and tribal governments — including smaller organizations and those operating in rural areas — can apply on an upcoming webinar from the National Reentry Resource Center. Register for the April 4 webinar here.

If your program or community is working to address the intersection of homelessness and the criminal and juvenile justice systems, we want to hear from you! Contact mmitchell@naeh.org to share your experiences.