The Returning Home Initiative: Ending the Cycle of Homelessness and Criminal Justice Involvement Through Supportive Housing

A Progress Report

Dates of Project: 2006 to 2013

Field of Work: Criminal justice and supportive housing

Problem Synopsis: In every major city in the United States, individuals with serious mental illness, substance abuse, or both, cycle through public systems, including jails, homeless shelters, hospital emergency rooms, and drug detoxification centers. Jails have become de facto holding pens for people with behavioral disorders, even though everyone knows they don’t belong there.

Synopsis of the Work: The Returning Home Initiative of the New York City-based Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) developed a model that combines affordable housing with social and medical services for people involved in the criminal justice system. It has helped other jurisdictions replicate it, and is working to institutionalize the model as a core strategy in post-incarceration re-entry.

Key Results to Date: Through Returning Home, CSH has facilitated the creation of 1,500 units of supportive housing for previously incarcerated individuals, most of them in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York. Preliminary evaluations indicated that use of some public systems, including jails and shelters, has fallen as a result, accompanied by cost savings.

CSH staff has also helped to diminish the regulatory and administrative barriers that interfere with expanding supportive housing. For example, CSH staff brought together officials from the federal Housing and Urban Development department with administrators of public housing authorities to clarify that most people who have been incarcerated are still eligible for Section 8 rental vouchers.

The National Association of Counties has a formal partnership with CSH to strengthen their collective efforts to increase the availability of supportive housing. Through a working group and other forums, the association is helping to educate county officials.

Going forward, CSH will focus on scaling up Returning Home and institutionalizing the concept.