Felons will typically serve over a year in prison. During this time, their life on the outside can hugely change. Their families can ditch them, mortgages fall overdue, and property auctioned.
Losing a home is easy when you are in prison with no ability to discuss with lenders. Also, without the ability to make money and pay installments.
Many find themselves effectively homeless upon release. They are often forced to seek emergency housing assistance for felons. There are various public and private channels to finding this help.
It is not just those that own homes that can become homeless. Most that are renting will also be unable to meet their obligations. They will be lucky if their stuff is not sold off to cover missed payments.
Roughly 10% of those that enter into the system will also have homelessness problems. Without a decent place to stay, many are also not able to find decent jobs.
Homelessness and joblessness are big contributors to recidivism. Being able to find decent jobs due to criminal past is a big problem. The desperation of these cases often pushes many back into crime to make ends meet.
Those that do find jobs will often find the wages quite low. Many only qualify for entry-level jobs. Many felons have to work two or three jobs just to make enough to cover bills.
When you have little to give for rent, then your options become limited. Emergency housing assistance is a possible way to handle this issue. Let’s look at what resources are there for felons.
Emergency Section 8 Housing
Section 8 is a government rental assistance program for low-income earners. It works in one of two ways.
The first is offering subsidized housing in designated projects. This approach has historically resulted in impoverished neighborhoods.
Currently, the more common way to get this assistance is through the voucher program. They are disbursed through public housing authorities (PHAs).
One needs to find a private landlord that will accept this voucher. And housing that fits the required standards. If they get the voucher, they can apply it to reduce their rent obligation.
This assistance does not cover the entirety of the rent, but can substantially discount it. When applying for Section 8 housing vouchers, you will be put on a waiting list. The funding is limited and it can take years to get this help.
Emergency Section 8 housing arises when specific categories of people become at risk of homelessness. Their situation calls for prioritization that can have them bumped up the list for a voucher.
Every PHA has its own rules on what is an emergency. However, the following are usually often qualified for this assistance.
- Seniors requiring medical support
- Those with physical or mental disabilities
- Domestic violence victims with minor children
- Veterans and active service members
- Those facing eviction from public housing
- Those that have suffered a natural disaster or fire
Exceptions to The Emergency Section 8 Housing Program
Felons that fall under any of the categories mentioned may qualify for this assistance. Their crimes should however not have resulted in being evicted from public housing.
Those evicted due to drug dealing may be disqualified. Those listed on sex offender registries are also excluded from this program.
PHAs have been given the right to set up their own rules on who qualifies for vouchers. Besides the vulnerable groups listed, they can decide on how felons qualify.
Some may establish a waiting period from the time of conviction. Some will only consider felons whose convictions were at least 5 years old. Others have extended this to 10 years.
Depending on the offense, you may be able to reduce this by having attended rehab.
Maintaining a peaceful environment is also important for many PHAs. They may disqualify applicants that have a history of violence or other conflicts with neighbors. A history of nuisance complaints can put you in bad standing.
Those convicted of drug offenses, even if not near public housing, may also be disqualified. The same may apply if anyone in the home has a history of alcohol or drug abuse.
Another concern is the failure to properly maintain the property. If there are reports against you from previous landlords for damage, it may lead to barring.
A failure to cover your part of the rent consistently can also prove a hindrance.
Sadly, many felons do easily fall under the categories above. So what options are available to them?
State and City Funded Rental Housing Programs
Because federal funding for housing assistance is limited, states and cities have had to step in. There are currently 313 state and city-run rental assistance programs in the U.S.
Different programs target different special interest groups. These can include those at risk of homelessness, domestic violence victims, addicts, and the elderly.
The type of assistance can also vary depending on the exact program. Some will help in covering security deposits, others will cover several months’ rent. You may also get aid with moving expenses and paying utility bills.
There are often caps on the amounts families can receive. The amount may also be determined by the level of household income.
These programs combine subsidized housing with support services. They are targeted at troubled people that have bounced around between hospitals, jail, and the street.
It is funded by HUD homeless programs. It is also supported by charities like the Ford Foundation, Pew Charitable Trusts, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The program recognized that homelessness does worsen mental health and drug abuse problems. It also leads to further physical health concerns as they are often ignored.
This permanent supportive housing (PSH) program has been quite successful. It has aided over 200,000 people and families across 48 states.
Research indicates that those with disabilities and released from prison were less likely to re-offend. This is compared to those not offered supportive housing.
Amongst the special interest groups that are targeted for PSH include:
- Adolescents aging out of foster care
- Nuclear families and single-parent homes
- People with mental health illnesses
- Those exiting transitional housing
- People with substance abuse issues
The program works with the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) and social service agencies. They assist suitable candidates to get the required paperwork to apply for this aid.
This includes completing the standard HRA 2010e application. A recent psychiatric evaluation and psychosocial assessment are also vital.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
This is a monthly grant that is provided to felons in need of financial assistance. Because it is a grant, the money does not need to be paid back. There are however conditions to receiving it.
It is a government scheme that provides grant funds to states and territories. The states then establish their criteria as to how these funds will be issued. You will need to consult your local TANF agency to find out if you qualify for this aid.
The money can typically be put towards household expenses like rent, food, medication, and utility bills.
To qualify, the applicant must either be pregnant. Or have at least one minor child they are caring for.
They must also be earning very low income, unemployed, under-employed, or about to become unemployed. Depending on the state, they may also need to join a work program.
Some private charities and non-profits do offer some rental assistance to vulnerable groups. The Salvation Army is one such organization. It offers short term loans to cover housing emergencies.
These loans typically cover one month’s rent. Extra funding can also be provided to pay for utility bills, food, and clothing.
Catholic charities are another helpful resource. They have built many affordable housing properties across the U.S. These charities also help those in emergencies that have just become homeless.
You can also likely find rent assistance from local churches in other denominations and even religions. Get in touch with your local religious offices and ask about this.
It is helpful if you are a member of the congregation. Or can find one to act as a reference.
Finding emergency assistance can be hard. Especially when the emergency is homelessness. It is best to pursue your options early on before you find yourself on the street.
Sadly, there is more demand than funding for many programs. Your best bet is to apply to as many programs as you can. Both government and private programs.
Be sure to keep evidence of your low incomes to support your application. Look for people that can help recommend you to these programs. A parole officer, social worker, doctor, or local religious leader may prove invaluable.
Also, take note of the conditions for this assistance. Some programs will have time limits by when you should have got back on your feet. Be sure to abide by the conditions and work hard to become self-sufficient.