A New Way of Life’s program model works. What we do isn’t revolutionary: when we welcome women into our homes after prison, we provide them with safety, stability, and the freedom of autonomy, while helping them find their voices and step into their power. The SAFE Housing Network was created to help other programs replicate our model so that more of the 1.9 million women released from US jails and prisons every year can experience a fresh start.
Since founding A New Way of Life in 1998, I have worked tirelessly to give formerly incarcerated women the opportunity to create new lives for themselves and their children. A New Way of Life provides women with safe housing, assists with re-establishing community connections and creates an environment that allows them to heal from trauma. This enables women to connect with dreams and aspirations of the past while working toward a better future.
In 2017 and 2018, I visited 64 prisons and jails in 26 states and three countries, and I realized that most of the women I met would not have access to a place like A New Way of Life after release. Because of my own prison experiences, it long ago became clear to me that if women had safe homes to live in after incarceration, they would have a chance to make a better life for themselves. But A New Way of Life can’t serve the thousands of formerly incarcerated women who need help. Thus, SAFE Housing Network was born.
We welcome you to join us as we work to help women, families and our communities break the cycle and heal from the formidable experiences of incarceration.
Susan Burton, founder of SAFE Housing Network and A New Way of Life
The SAFE Housing Network model was designed for women in reentry by women who have been through reentry themselves.
At A New Way of Life, we give formerly incarcerated women the support, the stability, and the opportunities they need to transform their lives for themselves. Our model is about more than just housing. We offer wraparound support services that are flexible enough to meet the unique needs of every woman, including legal help, mental health treatment, parenting and life skills instruction, substance misuse training, employment assistance, and everything in between.
But very early in our history, we realized that it wasn’t enough to help individuals change their lives: we also had to tear down the institutional barriers that prevent formerly incarcerated people from accessing housing, education and jobs. That’s why, in addition to helping women get back on their feet, we work with them to develop leadership and advocacy skills so that they in turn can help their formerly incarcerated sisters.
Women are not men. It seems obvious, of course, but most reentry programs for women are built for men and then painted pink. They don’t take into account the complex demands facing women fresh out of prison: maintaining sobriety, keeping up with the punitive terms of correctional supervision, and searching for housing and employment, while repairing relationships and navigating the challenges surrounding family reunification and the child welfare system. Nor do these programs consider the root causes of their incarceration: overwhelmingly, justice-involved women were victims first, the vast majority having suffered physical, sexual or emotional abuse at some point during their lives.
As the number of women in prison swells — women are the fastest-growing population in the US — it is vital to have gender-specific housing and services in place for them when they come home. SAFE works to ensure that formerly incarcerated women around the world have access to programs that are tailor-made for them and will give them the opportunity to succeed.
Formerly incarcerated women constitute one of the fastest-growing, most underserved populations… Read More
A detailed look at how to replicate our unique reentry model… Read More
A continuation of the second phase of our replication model study… Read More
A case study of approaches to assisting women coming home from prison… Read More
A document detailing “on the ground” reality and resources available for women in reentry… Read More
Hope House was A New Way of Life’s first replication project developed outside of California. Susan partnered with Topeka K. Sam, the founder of Ladies of Hope Ministries and formerly incarcerated herself, to open Hope House in October 2017.
A New Way of Life partnered with California State University, Fullerton, and Project Rebound on a housing initiative for formerly incarcerated students. The five-bedroom John Irwin Memorial House opened in August 2018 in North Orange County.
Every woman has potential and is worthy. Our model recognizes, understands and embraces the reality of the lives of the formerly incarcerated, providing a solace not often afforded by a society that responds by stigmatizing, marginalizing and further punishing them.
The foundation for SAFE is respect for all formerly incarcerated women, building self-respect, and encouraging mutual respect to build trust and community. Women who live in our homes are taught a new way of living that raises self-respect and conquers low self-esteem.
Every person is capable of transformation, and it is through personal transformation and the ability to advocate that changes in our systems occur. Part of our strategy involves a unique and empowering focus on advocacy and organizing.