Many people who have served time for various crimes have difficulty adjusting to life after being released. In many cases, there is difficulty interacting with people, especially if they have been in prison for years. Some former convicts are lucky enough to be able to live with family members, others are not so lucky. Others prefer to remain independent as they start life after serving their sentences. Unfortunately, for many former prisoners, it is difficult to find suitable housing.
Some people are reluctant to rent houses to former felons. Depending on the type of crime they were locked away for, even if they find housing, their neighbours may be less than welcoming. This is one reason why some members of the public are supportive of the idea of housing assistance for felons. Some of the most common programs that are offering housing assistance for felons are:
Section 8 Housing
This frequently changed section of the Housing Act provides assistance with rent payments to private landlords. This benefit is for low-income earners as well as felons. As one would expect, there is a waiting list for this benefit. In fact, in some areas, the authorities have stopped accepting new applications. With this kind of demand, it is easy to see that someone with a conviction would have a difficult time getting approval.
For a felon to benefit from Section 8 Housing, the following as to be true:
- When the crime/felony was committed
- The type of felony
The following felons are not able to benefit under Section 8:
- Sex offenders
- Drug traffickers
- Certain categories of fraud
- Commit violent crimes
Housing authorities in each state also have different set of rules for granting assistance under Section 8 to felons. In some cases, regardless of the nature of the felony, the applicant will not be considered unless a specified number of years have passed.
Former felons are able to apply for housing grants as another means of finding affordable housing. In some states, there are grants set up by charitable organizations to help convicted felons get back on their feet. One example of this is the work of Catholic Charities that assist former felons in a number of ways. Other churches also have their own programs for assisting former inmates.
Some housing grants for felons also exist in the form of federal aid, although getting approval can sometimes be challenging. Also due to the number of applications, response time is slow. A good place to get information on housing help for felons is the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). While HUD does not provide grants, it can point felons in the right direction.
Programs under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act assist people with low income to find suitable housing. A number of recipients of these benefits were formerly homeless, or had metal health or drug abuse issues. These benefits may also extend to some people with criminal convictions, but with some conditions such as:
- Applicants who were not homeless before they were convicted may be denied
- Sex offenders will not be considered
- Applicants whose source of funding can be linked to their criminal past may also be denied
Many people end up in halfway houses, also called transitional houses after serving time in prison. This provides accommodation and allows the former inmate to adjust to being in back in society. These housing options are supported by subsidies, so there is no need to worry about rent payments. This is helpful to former inmates, especially if they do not have the resources to pay rent on a regular basis.
Some felons are released into a halfway house immediately after being released due to the terms of their parole. Halfway houses operated in a structured way and occupants have to follow have to follow the rules for living there. They will be assigned duties, and will be subjected to unscheduled checks of their rooms to ensure that there is no contraband. Despite the rules, the environment itself is far less rigid than prison, and tenants have more freedom than they did while incarcerated.
Felons with recent convictions or who were recently released from prison, tend to have the harder time finding housing when released. For this reason, some parolees ask their parole officers for help in finding agencies that offer housing assistance. In fact, some parole officers will assist parolees with finding suitable housing where possible.
Any former felon who is applying for housing assistance or trying to rent property should be honest about their conviction. This will prevent problems later on if the renter finds out that you lied about your criminal history. If you have a felony conviction, it is good to take references when you are going to look for somewhere to rent. This will greatly improve your chances of success.