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Systems Change Accomplishments of CSH's Returning Home Initiative


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In 2001, the Corporation for Supportive Housing began exploring how to promote supportive housing for individuals returning to the community from incarceration.  Supportive housing for the reentry population is designed for individuals with chronic health challenges who were homeless upon entry to prison or jail or at risk of homelessness upon release.

Research has shown that individuals with histories of incarceration, homelessness, mental illnesses, or other disabilities often cycle through the criminal justice and homelessness systems multiple times and may also frequently use crisis health and mental health services (Burt and Anderson 2005; Hall, Burt, Roman and Fontaine 2009; Metraux and Culhane 2004).  Given the success of supportive housing models in increasing the residential stability of persons with homeless and mental health histories (Burt and Anderson 2005; Culhane, Metraux, and Hadley 2002; Culhane, Parker, Poppe, Gross, and Sykes 2007).  CSH believed expanding these programs to target those released from incarceration could be a way to break the costly cycle of incarceration, homelessness, and emergency service utilization.

CSH launched its Returning Home Initiative with a $6 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and additional support from the Open Society Institute, the Conrad N. Hilton and JEHT Foundations in the spring of 2006.  The Returning Home Initiative (RHI) has two goals.  First, it is dedicated to establishing permanent supportive housing (PSH) as an essential component of reintegrating formerly incarcerated persons with histories of disabilities and housing instability into their communities.  Second, it is dedicated to initiating and implementing public policy changes that strengthen the integration and coordination of the corrections, housing, mental health, and human service systems.  As part of the first goal, the RHI seeks to:

1) develop successful supportive housing models tailored to formerly incarcerated persons;

2) facilitate the placement of 1,000 formerly incarcerated persons into supportive housing units; and

3) document decreased recidivism rates of the formerly incarcerated persons who live in supportive housing compared to a similar group of formerly incarcerated persons who do not receive supportive housing. To initiate and implement public policy changes as part of the second goal, the RHI engages local and national stakeholders, such as supportive housing providers, public administrators, and elected officials, through an array of activities.

This report summarizes the influence of the RHI activities in three initial cities – New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago.  It focuses on changes in system functioning and interagency collaboration that have come about, at least in part, through the facilitation and encouragement of the RHI program manager and other CSH staff funded with the RHI resources.  In addition, the report identifies challenges and lessons learned from the RHI to date and provides a summary of the influence of the RHI activities on system change.

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