June 05, 2009
The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness e-newsletter

ATLANTA, GEORGIA. The Re-Entry Partnership Housing Program of the Georgia Department of Community Affairs and Georgia Housing and Finance Authority has provided a housing solution for an at-risk population whose successful reintegration in the community can lead to reduced recidivism and homelessness. The program was awarded the 2008 Special Needs Housing -Combating Homelessness award from the National Council of State Housing Agencies.

Georgia authorities estimated that over 830 convicted felons remained in prison because they could not meet a state mandate to secure stable housing before release. On average, their stay was extended more than 300 days. In addition, those who reentry had failed often were homeless and at risk.

Facing reentry barriers because of a lack of housing and credit history that could be accepted by landlords, lacking financial resources to secure housing, and frequently lacking access to public housing, this target population needed new solutions. The Re-Entry Partnership Housing Program (RPH) was initiated by a collaborative of state agencies to provide a reasonable best chance for felons released on parole and make available a sound fiscal solution to the cost of housing felons beyond their parole date, simply for lack of housing.

RPH provides released felons with stable housing and food, including those with special needs, such as mental health and substance abuse challenges. The program provides short term financial assistance to help stabilize the re-entry process. Participating housing providers are compensated $600 per month for up to three months for the room and board of each individual, with a cap of $1,800.

The parolee receives support in connecting with services to foster community transition. RPH participants are supervised by a parole officer who works in cooperation with housing providers to provide a stable and supportive environment. Program success for each parolee is very simply measured in terms of whether or not the parolee is meeting his/her terms of parole. This simplicity is seen as one of the keys to the program's success. Successful providers are rewarded with new placements based on their success level, their capacity, and the special needs of each parolee (including geography). Unsuccessful providers are terminated from the program.

From 2002 to 2008, RPH placed 516 parolees, including 30% classified as special needs. Over 58% of participants secured employment and almost 16% completed parole. Only 5% had their parole revoked and less than 3% absconded. Nationally, 30% of those released from state prisons will be re-arrested within 6 months of release. In Georgia, 28% of returning offenders are re-convicted within 3 years of release.

RPH cost $686,000 since its inception, while the amount spent to incarcerate the 516 felons past their tentative parole month to max out date is estimated at nearly $25 million. The cost to house convicted felons past their tentative parole month until entry into the RPH was nearly $6 million dollars, yielding a savings to Georgia taxpayers of more than $18 million.

A grant from the Federal Criminal Justice Coordinating Council and the Georgia Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC)Funding provided initial funding to the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles, which is responsible for identifying parolees to participate in the program, to secure housing for parolees, and to report back to CJCC. The Georgia Department of Corrections is a critical lead partner responsible for establishing housing criteria and conducting housing site visits. The State Housing Trust Fund for the Homeless (HTF), through its contract with the Department of Community Affairs (DCA), is the administrative agent charged with compensating housing providers and ensuring that the housing provider meets basic contracting and organizational requirements. Thirty- three (33) approved housing providers throughout Georgia are participating, offering housing, employment search assistance, anger management support, substance abuse counseling, mental health and HIV/AIDS services, health services, and other critical services to participating felons.