Los Angeles (June 24, 2021) – A New Way of Life (ANWOL) stands with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Marcia L. Fudge’s commitment to “ensure that people leaving prison and jails are supported in their reentry to the community.” Access to stable housing is central to this commitment.
Research shows, as Secretary Fudge recognizes, “that people who lack stable housing following incarceration face a higher likelihood of rearrest and reincarceration.” UCLA’s Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies’ Million Dollar Hoods Project reports that in 2016 there “was one houseless arrest for every two houseless people” in Los Angeles compared to 1 arrest out of every 33 people for the total population. In Bakersfield, CA, there were “22 arrests for each houseless person” compared to “1 arrest for every 25 housed people” in 2017.
It would be all too easy to demonize houseless people as deserving of their arrests, but the fact of the matter is that stable housing is both inaccessible for whole swaths of communities—especially formerly incarcerated individuals—and carries with it numerous deterrents to incarceration, such as access to privacy and protections from the unreasonable search and seizure of one’s private property. Stable housing, likewise, brings with it numerous benefits such as increased contact with local and national politics and the ability to secure long-term employment.
These are amongst the many reasons—along with the fundamental dignity and worth of every human—it matters that formerly incarcerated people are 10 times more likely to experience houselessness than the general public and constitute 70% of the unsheltered houseless population. As HUD Secretary Fudge states, too many people “are caught in a revolving door between homelessness and reincarceration.”
We at ANWOL have long recognized and been an advocate for the importance of stable housing for formerly incarcerated people. Since our founding in 1998, ANWOL has provided safety and support in our safe homes for over 1,300 women and children. In 2020, we provided safety and support for 94 women, of whom 82 were mothers of young children. Ninety percent of the women we served met benchmarks identified as necessary for successful community reentry, and one of the women were re-incarcerated. We provided this support for all 94 women at less than ½ the cost of incarceration.
A New Way of Life looks forward to working with HUD and California Public Housing Authorities to provide stable housing to formerly incarcerated people. ANWOL likewise supports HUD’s decision to review “existing HUD policies and regulations that limit access to housing and HUD assistance among people with criminal convictions” and publish “findings regarding best and promising practices on reentry housing.” Though we support HUD’s commitment to ensuring that landlords’ denial of housing applicants on the basis of criminal records are not in violation of Fair Housing policies, we call upon state and federal governments to amend the Fair Housing Act to recognize having a criminal record as a protected characteristic.
About A New Way of Life
In 1998, Susan Burton founded A New Way of Life Reentry Project (ANWOL) to help women, families, and communities break the cycle and heal from the formidable experiences of incarceration. ANWOL advances multi-dimensional solutions to the effects of incarceration, including: (1) providing housing and support to formerly incarcerated women for successful community reentry, family reunification, and individual healing; (2) working to restore the civil rights of formerly incarcerated people; and (3) empowering, organizing, and mobilizing formerly incarcerated people as advocates for social change and personal transformation.
A New Way of Life is confronting harmful stereotypes and demonstrating that alternatives to incarceration are possible. ANWOL is breaking the cycle of recidivism, repairing families, and developing leaders. The organization’s approach is built upon four key values that are necessary to promote community reentry after incarceration. (1) Every person has inherent value and holds the power of possibility and transformation within them; (2) Public resources are better invested in opportunities for transformation than on prisons and punishment; (3) Formerly incarcerated people must be at the forefront in creating solutions to the incarceration crisis; and (4) Incarceration of a family member affects the entire family and the healing process must involve the entire family. For more information about A New Way of Life Reentry Project, visit www.anewwayoflife.org.