CSH Urges "Smart" Supportive Housing Strategy for Reentry

Testimony of CSH

New York State Assembly Committee on Correction and Subcommittee on Transitional Services Joint Public Hearing

Devising a Smart Supportive Housing Strategy for Ex-Offenders upon Reentry

My name is Kristin Miller, and I am the Director of the Metro Program at the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH). CSH’s mission is to advance solutions that use housing as a platform to deliver services, improve the lives of the most vulnerable people, and build healthy communities. CSH has 25-year track record of innovation and investment in New York, leading demonstration projects, analyzing data and assisting in the creation of over 15 thousand permanent supportive and affordable housing units across the state. CSH is deeply committed to improving access to supportive housing for people with criminal justice histories and has been working in this arena for more than a decade.

An estimated 25,000 people are released from New York State prisons each year and, of these, nearly half return to New York City.[1] Of all the issues facing returning prisoners, the need to secure safe, affordable housing is one of the most essential. Many of those released each year are homeless and have traditionally cycled out of prison and into the shelter system or unlicensed, unregulated three-quarter houses. In fact, analyses of the NYC Department of Homeless Services shelter populations indicate that between 20 and 23% of homeless adults have been incarcerated at some point in the two years prior to entering shelter and about 19 percent of persons released from NY State prisons listed shelters as their first known address. [2],[3]

There is an evidence-based, cost-effective solution. Supportive housing, a model coupling affordable housing and support services, is effective in improving outcomes for this population while also decreasing public systems use. CSH piloted the Frequent Users Services Enhancement (FUSE) initiative here in New York almost 8 years ago, which utilized supportive housing as an intervention for people cycling between the criminal justice system and homeless system. The Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health completed an evaluation of this groundbreaking initiative that placed over 200 individuals into supportive housing. [4] The rigorous evaluation compared the outcomes of FUSE participants versus a comparison group, and demonstrated some major findings impacting the use of jails, shelters and crisis care services.

The evaluation indicates that supportive housing can reduce homelessness, incarceration and costs of public systems. FUSE participants averaged just over two-weeks of shelter stays in the 24 months after placement into housing as compared to the 164 days in shelters spent by the comparison group. Overall FUSE generated a $15,000 cost offset for each participant.

While this model has become a nationally recognized approach and is being implemented in almost 20 communities across the country, here in New York people with criminal justice histories have been shortchanged in every supportive housing production initiative to date, and thus, very few units have been targeted at this population.

In this year’s State of the State address, Governor Cuomo proposed a bold housing plan and committed to creating 20,000 new units of supportive housing over the next 15 years, with 6,000 of the new units to be created over the next 5 years. In order to deliver on this promise, the Governor must sign an MOU with Legislative leadership before the end of session, which is this Thursday, June 16th. Additionally, last September, the Governor adopted the New York State Council on Reentry and Reintegration’s recommendation to “include the formerly incarcerated as a target population for supportive housing”. As such, a portion of the 20,000 new supportive housing units will be targeted to serve this population.

This commitment could effectively stop the cycle of homelessness and criminal justice involvement for the thousands of New Yorkers exiting prisons each year. We ask that Governor Cuomo honor these commitments by signing an MOU before session ends on Thursday, and targets a portion of these units to people exiting the criminal justice system.

[1] NYS DOCCS. 2010. 2007 Releases: Three Year Post Release Follow-up. Albany: New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.

[2] Burt et al. 1999; Eberle et al. 2001; Kushel et al. 2005; Schlay & Rossi 1992.

[3] Navarro, Mireya. November 14, 2013. Ban on Former Inmates in Public Housing Is Eased. The New York Times.

[4] Aidala, Angela; McAllister, William; Yomogida, Maiko; Shubert, Virginia. 2013. “Reducing Homelessness, Incarceration and Costs through Supportive Housing – The New York City FUSE Evaluation”. Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.

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