Abstract: Housing Stability after Incarceration (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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Housing Stability after Incarceration

Saturday, January 14, 2023
Laveen A, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Stephanie Kennedy, PhD, Director of Research Dissemination, Florida State University
Carrie Pettus, PhD, Associate Professor, Director of Institute for Justice Research & Development, Florida State University, FL
Background and Purpose: Attaining stable housing is often framed as a key component of success for individuals leaving incarceration and returning home (i.e., reentry). Research indicates one third of individuals who return home from prison experience housing instability and 10% experience homelessness within their first-year post-release. Without stable housing, common reentry tasks (e.g., secure employment, meet post-release supervision requirements, and/or engage with behavioral health treatment) become exponentially more difficult. If and when individuals become homeless, they are at increased risk for re-arrest and reincarceration. While much is known about the prevalence of homelessness among formerly incarcerated individuals, how housing situations change for individuals throughout the reentry period as a means to target services to those most in need remains unclear.

Methods: Data were drawn from 420 individuals enrolled in a randomized controlled trial of a well-being-based behavioral health reentry intervention in two Midwestern and one Southern state. Individuals were interviewed about their housing status at two-weeks, eight-months, and 14-months post-release. Univariate and chi-square analyses were employed for analysis.

Findings: Most individuals (60%) lived in someone else’s home two-weeks post-release, 17% lived in their own home, and 10% were in a hotel/motel, shelter, or on the streets. The remaining 13% lived in work release, a halfway house, or correctional facility. By 14-months post-release, 37% lived in their own home, 45% lived in someone else’s home, 8% were in a hotel/motel, shelter, or on the streets, and 10% were in a work release or correctional setting. When asked about with whom individuals were living, nearly 60% reported living with adult family/friends two-weeks post-release; 28% lived alone or with an intimate partner. By 14-months post-release, 42% lived with adult family/friends and 48% of individuals lived with a spouse/intimate partner. Only 30% of individuals also lived with minor children at all post-release timepoints. The proportion of individuals who were unsure where they were sleeping most nights (20-22%) and who considered themselves homeless (14-18%) remained stable throughout follow-up. At 8-months post-release, 55% paid rent/mortgage, which increased to 63% by 14-months post-release. There were no significant differences in outcomes by gender, racial identity, or age at time of release.

Conclusion and Implications: Although many individuals returned home from prison to live with loved ones, cohabitating with family, friends, or intimate partners may not equate to stability for all individuals. While housing may not have been critical for all, there is a clear need to focus resources on the 14-22% of individuals who are high-need to prevent instability and homelessness and to extend housing supports beyond initial release from incarceration. Additionally, although many individuals are dependent on family during reentry, research suggests that family support deteriorates over time. Further, family members are rarely integrated into formal reentry planning or reentry support services; while data-driven programs to support family members during reentry exist, few reentry centers offer them. Therefore, the emotional and financial strain placed on families during reentry often goes unspoken and unaddressed and may contribute to housing instability.