Pilot is shown to positively impact the lives of formerly incarcerated individuals
Program has potential to impact thousands more in New York City and beyond
New York, NY—The Vera Institute of Justice today released a study evaluating the impact of a pilot program to reunite formerly incarcerated people with their families in New York City public housing. The evaluation found that the program had a positive impact on participants and their families, has the potential to impact thousands more who are affected by current admissions policies in New York City, and could serve as a model for similar programs nationwide.
Finding stable housing is one of the first hurdles faced by the hundreds of thousands of people returning from prison and jails each year, and is fundamental to many other aspects of reentry, including finding employment. However, many of the more than 3,000 local public housing authorities nationwide have policies that exclude people with criminal histories. These policies can include not only those who have been incarcerated, but also people who have been convicted of misdemeanors, or people who have only been arrested and were not convicted.
Amid a growing body of evidence that housing stability is essential to a successful transition back into the community and is associated with lower recidivism, many jurisdictions are taking measures to ease these restrictions on public housing for people with criminal records.
This report evaluates the success of one such measure: the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) Family Reentry Pilot Program in New York City, developed in partnership with Vera and the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) and supported in in part by the Tiger Foundation. Launched in 2013, the program was designed to reunite 150 people recently released from prison with their families who live in public housing. The pilot participants received personalized services from 13 different reentry organizations to help them address other reentry needs, including finding work, continuing their education, and participating in substance use counseling.
“Opening doors to public housing is a significant and underutilized resource for supporting the members of our community who are returning home from prison,” said Fred Patrick, director of Vera’s Center on Sentencing and Corrections. “As this report shows, providing stable housing and supportive services is not only a building block to a better future for people leaving incarceration, but is also hugely beneficial to their families. We are grateful for the support of NYCHA in making this program a possibility, and look forward to seeing how they and other public housing authorities continue to expand access to public housing.”
“In our mission to create connected communities, supporting families is key,” said NYCHA Chair and CEO Shola Olatoye. “This pilot program demonstrates how, working with partner agencies and experts we can expand opportunity by ensuring there is a path back to stable housing for individuals who have served their sentences and demonstrated their commitments to turning a new leaf. NYCHA is proud to have supported this national model, which is already improving residents’ quality of life and strengthening communities here in New York City.”
"One of the first in the nation to take such bold action, NYCHA is proving we can strike the right balance between reuniting the formerly incarcerated with their families living in HUD-assisted housing while ensuring the safety of residents," said Kristin Miller, CSH metro-area director. “Their Family Reunification Pilot Program is illustrating the critical role of housing and support services in promoting both successful reentry and community well-being, and we are proud that we have been a partner with NYCHA since the very beginning demonstrating how safe and stable housing works for everyone.”
Using interviews with participants, families, and service providers, as well as an analysis of city and state administrative data, the report found that:
- No participant has been convicted of a new offense while in the program.
- Almost half of the interviewed participants said that they would be homeless, living in a shelter, or in transitional housing if they had not been accepted into the pilot.
- A number of participants reported that the wide array of services provided was integral to the success of the program, helping them get back on their feet during what many described as an overwhelming transition.
- Family members of participants, including children and elderly parents, felt that they benefitted from the program and living arrangement.
- It is estimated that hundreds of people released from state prison each year may potentially be affected by NYCHA admissions policies, meaning that over time, thousands of people and their families could be eligible if the program expanded full scale.
The report also takes stock of lessons learned from the pilot and gives recommendations for other public housing authorities seeking to build similar programs.
The report will be highlighted as part of a national convening on public housing access and reentry tomorrow, hosted by Vera, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Trinity Church Wall Street. The event—also supported by The Tow Foundation—will feature discussions on the importance of public housing for people with conviction histories, lessons from the field, best practices, and opportunities for changes in policy. Panelists include HUD Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Lourdes Castro Ramirez, NYCHA Chair and Chief Executive Officer Shola Olatoye, and officials from a number of other public housing authorities nationwide.
The event will be available on livestream beginning at 8:30 a.m. ET and available on-demand following the event at trinitywallstreet.org/videos.