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HFPG Testimony on Bill 5375: An Act Creating a Working Group to Study Housing Options for Persons Reentering the Community After Incarceration

The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving submitted testimony to the Connecticut General Assembly’s Housing Committee in support of H.B. 5375, An Act Creating a Working Group to Study Housing Options for Persons Reentering the Community After Incarceration.  The Foundation believes the working group would expand knowledge and generate critical dialogue about housing options and barriers Connecticut residents experience as they return to their communities after incarceration. The Working Group allows policymakers, funders, service providers and advocates to work together to understand the housing needs for those returning from incarceration and provide evidence-based recommendations to allocate limited resources for impactful policy and practice.  Research and our experience confirm that stable and safe housing is particularly important for returning citizens who often return to their communities with the need to manage job training and basic literacy and other educational support programs, employment, mental and physical health needs and sobriety. Below is the full testimony.

 

*** Testimony on H.B. 5375, An Act Creating a Working Group to Study Housing Options for Persons Reentering the Community After Incarceration
Before the Housing Committee
March 6, 2017

Thank you, Senator Hwang, Senator Slossberg, Representative Butler, and members of the Housing Committee, for the opportunity to share the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving’s support for H.B. 5375, An Act Creating a Working Group to Study Housing Options for Persons Reentering the Community After Incarceration. We believe the working group will expand knowledge and generate critical dialogue about housing options and barriers Connecticut residents experience as they return to their communities after incarceration.

As the community foundation for the Greater Hartford region, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving serves hundreds of nonprofits and more than 750,000 residents in 29 towns with a mission to put philanthropy into action to promote equitable opportunity for all residents in our region. As part of this commitment, the Foundation has supported reentry programs since 2007, including providing $778,453 in support to the BEST Chance program since its launch in 2015, and significant investments in the Greater Hartford region’s shelter and supportive housing programs that serve people returning from prison and their families. In December 2017, the Foundation funded a new Reentry Welcome Center in Hartford, which is designed to coordinate services across providers of reentry services to support immediate access to basic services, including housing. The proposed housing workgroup would help inform this collaborative regional effort.

The Working Group allows policymakers, funders, service providers and advocates to work together to understand the housing needs for those returning from incarceration and provide evidence-based recommendations to allocate limited resources for impactful policy and practice. Research and our experience confirm that stable and safe housing is particularly important for returning citizens who often return to their communities with the need to manage job training and basic literacy and other educational support programs, employment, mental and physical health needs and sobriety. National research by the Urban Institute1 also documents the specific challenges for those returning from jail, where the length of stay is often shorter than prison. Research also reveals that many returning citizens return to live with family which may require a unique set of supports. The Hartford Reentry Welcome Center funded by the Foundation included research on reentry challenges, developed by engaging people who have returned to community, to inform further our knowledge of supports in place and what more is needed, including housing considerations. Returning citizens participating in the study prioritized needing food, housing, employment, clothing and healthcare. This study, and the recent report published by the Commission on Equity and Opportunity2, also acknowledged that more work is needed to fully analyze specific housing options and barriers.

Housing alternatives must be assessed at different stages of reentry to effectively address individual needs and suitable options that may be affected by a range of issues—limited work histories, low-incomes, lack of affordable housing, inadequate support in navigating federally assisted housing and federal policy related to people with criminal records to qualify, discrimination by some landlords against returning and resistance among some community residents to develop transitional and supportive housing in their communities. The current limited knowledge of how these issues play out in Connecticut communities require informed and collaborative study.

We support H.B. 5375 as a critical step to ensure the necessary research to address the housing challenges facing reentering citizens and urge the Housing Committee to recommend that the Working Group include those men and women who have navigated reentry challenges and philanthropy engaged throughout the state as partners in funding and expertise in supporting reentering citizens and their families.

We look forward to continued partnership to ensure that all our residents can thrive and contribute to the Connecticut’s growth.

 

Thank you.


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