Last week, USA Today reported that Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Marcia L. Fudge directed agency staff to submit findings and recommendations on removing barriers for people with "criminal histories." (Hereafter, CSH will refer to them as "impacted by the justice system.") She gave the agency a six-month timeline. CSH applauds Secretary Fudge's bold action to dismantle racist policies that have affected and continue to impact people and better live up to its mission, "to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all."
HUD's work to reduce barriers is pivotal because, like housing, the American justice system is often anything but "Just."
We know that Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) are disproportionally overrepresented in the justice system. We also know that there is deep intersectionality between people impacted by the justice system and untreated mental illness, stemming from a national failure to invest adequately in mental health services and community-identified supports.
This double jeopardy of discrimination plays out from credit checks to resource prioritization. It has devastating, often generational consequences for individuals, families, and communities, making them less likely to secure affordable, stable housing. We know that housing instability, in turn, decreases public safety. The result is that people are more likely to experience homelessness and endure cycles of institutionalization unnecessarily.
CSH has worked alongside communities for decades as they have constructed housing models to expand access to housing for people impacted by the justice system. We have witnessed the barriers in action and how they increase public costs, harm marginalized communities, and prevent people from thriving. We have also seen how communities become safer and stronger when people impacted by the justice system are welcomed with housing and the service supports identified by them as necessary to succeed.
- In 2021, Urban Institute published results of a rigorous five-year program in Denver, CO, that deployed the Social Impact Bond (SIB) model to provide housing and support services for people involved in the justice system and experiencing long-term homelessness. At the end of the study, 77% of the more than 700 individuals in the intervention group remained stably housed and had notably reduced interactions with the justice system.
- A 2019-2020 CSH collaboration with the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OMHAS) and the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections revealed similar results. More than 400 people exiting Ohio's prisons received housing assistance and support. Only 7% of the program's tenants recidivated compared to 31.4% of those the state measured over the same period.
- Like CSH's Speak Up!, advocacy programs have helped raise the voice and wisdom of people with lived experiences of homelessness, justice involvement, and mental illness. HUD must consult and include people with lived experience as part of this six-month review process.
These examples are just the tip of the iceberg. HUD has the unique platform to implement broad reforms of its housing policies, but other federal partners also have a role to play. We encourage other agencies like the U.S. Department of Treasury and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to join HUD in examining how they can improve policies and programs like Low-Income Housing Tax Credits and rural housing grants.
CSH recognizes the challenges ahead; there will be pushback on this much-needed reform resulting from the stigma that follows people that have been or are currently involved in the justice system. We must harness the political will to push past it by engaging and educating residents, landlords, service providers, employers, and other concerned stakeholders as part of the solution. Only together can we create fundamental pathways to opportunities for people to grow and thrive.
We are committed to supporting HUD's efforts. We invite you to share your recommendations and promising practices with us or HUD directly. To reach us, send an email to ExternalAffairs@csh.org.
Thank you for your continued partnership.
Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH)