Mayor de Blasio’s Task Force on Behavioral Health and the Criminal Justice System Plan Released

CSH applauds the Administration’s plans to address the high number of people in need of mental health treatment who cycle in and out of New York City’s jails. Mayor de Blasio’s plan significantly expands public health services at almost every step of the criminal justice system. The plan cites a report on 400 New Yorkers who have been admitted to jail more than 18 times in the last five years and present an even higher prevalence of mental illness and substance use disorder than the general jail population. This group accounted for over 10,000 jail admissions and 300,000 days in jail during the five years examined in the report.[1]

We know that many of these people are also in need of safe affordable housing with supports to help live healthy lives in our communities. CSH recently established a Reentry Housing workgroup to develop policy recommendations to outline the housing needs of people reentering the community from jail or prison. CSH’s NYC FUSE pilot used supportive housing as an intervention for people trapped in the cycle of homelessness and criminal justice. 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.

Mayor de Blasio’s plan includes several action steps related to housing for persons reentering the community from the criminal justice system:

Expand reach of discharge programs to minimize disruption in Medicaid coverage, connect people with housing and services prior to release, and connect those who are eligible are connected to Health Home care coordination.

Expand access to supportive housing and other services to persons returning to the community through:

  • launching a 267 unit scattered-site supportive housing program focused on individuals with behavioral health needs and a history of cycling through the criminal justice system who have struggled with homelessness based on the FUSE program, and
  • establishing a housing planning team to assess access to more supportive, affordable, and public housing for justice involved individuals with behavioral health issues.

The Administration has allocated $130 million over four years to the steps outlined in the plan, of which $40 million is asset forfeiture funds contributed by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. CSH is grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this report focused on breaking the revolving door of arrest, incarceration and release that has trapped many homeless individuals in the system for relatively minor offenses.

[1] Rikers Island Hotspotters Analysis, Bureau of Correctional Health Services, NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, July 2014.

Reentry Focus of CSH-hosted New England Forum

Leaders of state and local criminal justice systems and other officials from throughout New England convened today in Hartford, CT to discuss opportunities and barriers to financing and scaling innovative programs aimed at integrating the housing needs of persons reentering communities from jails and prisons. As national experts in the use of supportive housing as a bridge to ensure successful reentry, CSH staff is uniquely positioned to bring together experienced providers and policymakers for a robust examination of such issues as why it is important for criminal justice systems to invest in housing in the community and why public housing authorities should be more focused on targeting individuals leaving jails and prisons.

Sarah Gallagher, CSH Director in Connecticut  welcomed participants to the CSH New England Reentry Leadership Forum this morning and CSH Eastern Region Managing Director Ryan Moser moderated a fishbowl that examined both the potential and challenges that exist in the financing of housing-based programs for reentry populations. The day-long conversation included a spotlight on reentry efforts in New York City as well as Ohio, and a full airing of topics that covered the policy, operational, and programmatic barriers to developing reentry initiatives and methods for measuring success. Participants looked forward to the future of reentry housing and concentrated on action planning to capitalize on opportunities that will bring supportive housing to scale as a reentry solution.

In addition to CSH professionals and other specialists in reentry housing, the Forum attracted Scott Semple, Interim Commissioner of the Connecticut State Department of Corrections, and A.T. Wall, Director of the State of Rhode Island Department of Corrections.

Click here to see the presentation on Returning Home Ohio. Click here to see the presentation on the New York City FUSE evaluation.

CSH Leads Collaborative Process in Developing a Reentry Housing Platform in NYC

The de Blasio Administration has demonstrated a commitment to improve policing and corrections practices across New York City.  A recent NY Times article highlighted the high percentage of people with mental health diagnoses in jail at Rikers, and the consequence of a facility and staff who are not equipped to meet their needs. Mayor de Blasio’s appointment of reform-minded Joseph Ponte to Commissioner of NYC Dept. of Corrections and establishment of a Task Force on Behavioral Health and the Criminal Justice System has demonstrated the Mayor’s commitment to improving this system.

CSH established a Reentry Housing workgroup to develop policy recommendations to ensure that the new administration fully understands the housing needs and issues of people reentering the community from jail or prison. Without stable housing and support, this population is at risk of getting stuck in the cycle of homelessness and incarceration. The workgroup included organizations with specific expertise in criminal justice and related housing issues including:  The Bridge, Brooklyn Community Housing and Services, The Bronx Defenders, CASES, The Fortune Society, From Punishment to Public Health (P2PH), Hour Children, Legal Action Center, Neighbors Together, The Osborne Association, Prisoner Reentry Institute, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and Providence House.

Please click on the link below to read the policy recommendations developed through this collaborative process. The recommendations include expanding access to supportive housing, affordable housing, and removing barriers to public and market rate housing.  We hope you will share and support these recommendations so that thousands of New Yorkers will have the tools they need to successfully reintegrate into our communities.

 Reentry Housing Policy Recommendations:

Promoting Access to Stable, Permanent Housing for All New Yorkers

Executive Summary

Stable Housing: There’s more than one way to stop crime- Glenn Martin guest blogs about the NYCHA Pilot

236_GlennEMartin_714Today’s historically low crime levels provide policymakers with an opportune moment to revisit outdated housing policies, which falsely associate increased public safety with strict restrictions on where individuals with a criminal conviction can live.  The New York City Housing Authority’s (NYCHA) Family Reunification Pilot Program (FRPP) has the potential to illustrate the critical role of supportive housing in promoting both successful reentry and community safety.    

Regardless of whether the American public accepts the reality that many of 2.3 million people  who are currently incarcerated were denied a ‘first chance’ at opportunity, the 700,000 men and women  exiting correctional facilities each year should receive a ‘second chance’ to pursue the American dream.  But in our society, white picket fences rarely replace rows of concertinaed razor wire.  In fact, a safe and stable home is often elusive for many formerly incarcerated men and women.

Although studies indicate that secure housing provides the foundation needed to obtain employment, treatment, and family reunification, 10% of those leaving correctional facilities will face homelessness as they return to their communities.  And while the financial cost of sheltering a homeless man or women is less than a fourth of the price to incarcerate him or her, New York City taxpayers still spend $40,000 to support each homeless person, each year.  Rather than continuing with a politics of lifetime-punishment that increases individual suffering, decreases community safety, and burdens taxpayers with the financial fallout of short-sighted policy, we should instead consider how to best serve the needs of the individuals and neighborhoods most impacted by incarceration.

In a 2012 letter, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) called for owners of HUD-assisted properties to “seek a balance between allowing ex-offenders to reunite with families that live in HUD subsidized housing, and ensuring the safety of all residents of its programs.”  New York City is one of the first communities nationwide to take action on these HUD recommendations.  Through the NYCHA’s Family Reunification Pilot Program (FRPP), 150 families will receive support in obtaining NYCHA apartments.  For the duration of the two year program, increases in tenants’ income will not change the rent on the unit, and participants may have the opportunity to stay on lease even after the program has been completed.  Although currently limited in scale, FRPP has the potential to demonstrate the need for similar programs around the nation and, if proven successful, may be expanded to 175,000 units of NYCHA housing.  Although we should exercise caution in using individual programs as a substitute for broader reform, projects like FRPP signal a readiness to move past the archaic paradigms which have characterized our nation’s thinking on criminal justice for too long.

In the United States, punishment doesn’t end at the prison gates.  If we truly believe that all people should have the opportunity to be self-sufficient and financially secure, then we should do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.  The men and women who have been given an opportunity through the Family Reunification Pilot Program are proving every day that safe and stable housing works for us all.

Glenn Martin is the Founder and Chief Risk Taker of JustLeadershipUSA

Recent Media Coverage

In Search of Second Chances | NY Times | 5.31.14

Ex-Convicts: Out of Jail but Still Barred | Wall Street Journal | 5.13.14

Ban on Former Inmates in Public Housing is Eased | NY Times | 11.14.13

Related Websites

Supportive Housing Opens in Southern IL

The Southern Illinois Coalition for the Homeless opened an eight unit supportive housing development in Herrin, IL on June 26, 2014 called the Phoenix Apartments. This is the first rural supportive housing developments in Illinois to target people leaving correctional institutions. The development will also target Veterans. Located five hours South of Chicago, the City of Herrin has a population of about 13,000.

This $1.8 million dollar project was financed primarily by the Illinois Affordable Housing Trust Fund. The development also received support from the Federal Home Loan Bank, obtained through the Bank of Marion, and from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

305_Sharron Hess_14Sharron Hess, Executive Director of the Southern IL Coalition for the Homeless and pictured to the left at the grand opening, said that their has been great demand for these units. Onsite services will include case management, counseling, and job training.

CSH provided a $50,000 non-interest bearing Pre-development Initiation Loan, a grant to support this effort, and technical assistance for the Southern Illinois Coalition for the Homeless as they worked to build community support, access financing, and develop the Phoenix Apartments.

Click here to read local coverage. Photo credit to Adam Testa with The Southern.

Groundbreaking in Dallas – The Cottages at Hickory Crossing

The Cottages at Hickory Crossing broke ground on April 17th, just half a mile from downtown Dallas. This new permanent supportive housing development will be home to 50 of the most vulnerable people in the Dallas area who are currently experiencing chronic homelessness. The Cottages will successfully house people who live with a mental illness and/or substance use disorder and cycle through jail due to a lack of the type of stability that supportive housing can provide.

This development has already received an AIA Dallas Design Award in the unbuilt category for plans to create a healing environment that involves each resident having his or her own cottage in an area that also incorporates common porches and green space for recreation and shared activities, along with solar energy, rainwater collection, and other green features that will enable sustainable urban living.

The CommonDallas County Director of Criminal Justice, Ron Stretcher, shared that the intervention of supportive housing is beneficial on a multitude of levels. “There is a significant and growing body of research that indicates permanent supportive housing is a key service that promotes recovery for consumers and leads to less utilization of costly interventions such as hospitals and the jails.  Research specifically in Dallas found that homeless consumers of the public behavioral health system cost about three times more than consumers with stable housing.  Looking past the strong research, it just makes sense that someone who is homeless needs a stable place to live before they can really start working on recovery.”

Team members include the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance and Dallas County Criminal Justice System as referral partners, the Central Dallas Community Development Corp will own and manage the property, and CitySquare will provide case management services and Metrocare will offer clinical services to residents. This group was convened by the Communities Foundation of Texas.

“The homeless need help the most, and, on the other hand, homelessness is a problem that we could actually solve. There are 400,000 poor people in the City of Dallas, but less than 600 chronically homeless people according to the last official count. I can’t imagine solving the problems of 400,000 people, but 600 is a more manageable number,” John Greenan, Executive Director of the Central Dallas CDC, stated.

CSH provided a $50,000 grant and a $50,000 loan in addition to technical assistance with602_The Cottages_14 support around design, supportive service planning, coordination between property management and supportive services, and assistance with bringing key players onto the team.

CSH Texas Director Dianna Grey says that “CSH has been committed to making this deal happen from the early stages. Cottages at Hickory Crossing will demonstrate that even people who have been on the streets for many years can stabilize in housing and be great neighbors.”

John Greenan, Executive Director of the Central Dallas CDC offered that CSH played a number of needed in roles in supporting this development team. “First CSH was a funder, helping the development out very early on when we needed crucial seed money. Second, as an expert in the process of providing housing for the homeless—CSH was in effect our expert consultant and was invaluable in that role. Finally, and most crucially, CSH stepped in and acted as the convener, and often as a mediator. The Communities Foundation of Texas had invited six of the highest performing nonprofit and governmental organizations in the City of Dallas to work together to design build and operate a model program for housing the homeless and placed a very substantial financial commitment behind that effort. CSH was brought in to lead the group forward and Dianna Lewis-Grey, the head of CSH’s Texas work, managed this effort with endless patience.”

NYCHA Family Reentry Pilot Featured in the Wall Street Journal

At the urging of HUD, public housing authorities in communities all over the country have been revisiting their restrictions on formerly incarcerated individuals to support family reunification post-release.  In four of our largest cities: Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans and New York, officials are looking to develop best practices to meet this mandate.

In New York City, CSH has partnered with the NYC Housing Authority (NYCHA) on a pilot program for 150 recently released former inmates, reuniting them with their families living in public housing. Participants and their families will receive case management and support as they reconnect with their community and may be added to the lease upon completion of the program.

The Wall Street Journal’s Ex-Convicts: Out of Jail but Still Barred  highlights the NYCHA Pilot alongside similar programs in Chicago and New Orleans. If these projects are effective, they will demonstrate a model for public housing authorities nationwide.

Read more about the pilot here.

NYC FUSE Evaluation: Decreasing Costs and Ending Homelessness

FUSE is a CSH signature initiative that helps communities to identify and engage high utilizers of public systems and place them into supportive housing to break the cycle of repeated use of costly crisis services and involvement in shelters and the criminal justice system. Columbia University recently completed an evaluation of this groundbreaking initiative piloted in New York City that placed over 200 individuals into supportive housing.

And the evaluation demonstrated some major findings impacting the use of jails, shelters and crisis care services. The rigorous evaluation compared the outcomes of FUSE participants versus a comparison group. What the evaluation indicates is 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.

Below are some graphs representing the overall findings. For details on the FUSE evaluation, check out the NYC FUSE page, read our two-page snapshot or download the entire evaluation report here.

Today, CSH presented the FUSE findings along with the CASAColumbia findings at an event with New York supportive housing providers and representatives from many city agencies. You can read the press release here and learn more about CASAColumbia here.




FUSE: Promising Solution to a Growing Problem

Martin F. Horn is a  Distinguished Lecturer at John Jay College, City University of New York and is a former Commissioner of Correction, City of New York.

I can recall as if it were yesterday when the more than 40 public and private agencies who partnered in 2003 to improve the way prisoners were released from the New York City jails got stuck on the problem of housing. Until that day, at least to me and too many of my correction colleagues, the link between affordable housing and post release prisoner success was not something we thought about. Historically we believed if we provided formerly released persons with access to treatment for addiction to alcohol and other drugs, and a job we were doing what we needed to be done.  In 2002 we met for the first time with people and organizations, including CSH, to explore the overlaps between homelessness and post release failure. A colleague who operated a successful transitional housing program raised the dire consequences of the difficulty successful participants were experiencing entering the housing market.

marty_horn_headshotAs we further explored the issue, our data was showing us the dramatic overlap between demand for mental health services, addiction treatment, admission to shelter and jail re-admissions. Informed by the 2006 publication of Malcolm Gladwell’s “Million-Dollar Murray” in the New Yorker we began to focus on the frequent users of jail and homeless services in the City of New York. The idea of FUSE was born then and there.

With meaningful, smart and committed support from CSH we struck on the idea of putting housing first, using Section 8 vouchers made available to us by the New York City Housing Authority and with a small grant from the JEHT foundation we were on our way. We began to identify, at the front door of the jail, those prisoners most likely to be readmitted in the future and we were determined to bend the line and reduce the use of imprisonment and shelter housing, and at the same time obtain better public safety outcomes. It was a hard bureaucratic slog; there were hurdles and challenges to overcome. For me, this experience was the best example of intergovernmental and private sector partnership I saw in 40 years of government service.

Today, reading the evaluation of the New York City FUSE by Angela Aidala and her colleagues at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health I feel enormous gratification and satisfaction that a few committed and determined people laboring in the underbelly of New York City struck on this simple idea that works! To see the FUSE concept taken up and replicated from coast to coast reinforces my belief in the value of public service, the importance of collaboration, and the necessity for public-private partnership.  I am deeply appreciative of the work of CSH in continuing to support and promote the FUSE concept and remain hopeful that we can continue to promote successful reentry to the community by formerly incarcerated people by learning from and building upon this effort.