Once someone has been in prison, there is a stigma attached to them that makes finding employment difficult. Finding companies that hire felons and offer resources to help them stay out of prison and lead normal lives on the outside is important.
In 2013, the state of Illinois enacted a law (http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2013/08/03/new-illinois-laws-aim-to-help-ex-felons-find-jobs/) that would increase the chances for ex-felons to gain employment. Under the act, a company that hires ex-felons is able to claim tax credits ranges from $600 to $1500 for each one it employs. The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) under The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) program gives credit to companies that hire felons.
Programs for Felons in Illinois
Many organizations in Illinois provide information that can help ex-felons find companies that will provide employment opportunities. Some of these organizations also have resources and programs for felons in Illinois that can help with mentoring, job training and even finding jobs. The Chicago Department of Family and Support Services and the Mayor’s Ex-Offenders’ program is a useful starting point for many ex-felons. The program’s website states that it provides for ex-felons and their families in areas such as:
- Subsidized work experience
- Job readiness training
- Supportive service
Housing for Felons in Illinois
Some landlords will discriminate against ex-prisoners and refuse to rent them houses or apartments. However, if you do not have a family home to return to, you will need to find somewhere to live after your release. Family and friends can sometimes help in finding somewhere to live, but some ex-felons have no one to help them with this basic need. One of the main organizations that help ex-felons with housing issues in Illinois is Re-Entry Illinois (http://www.reentryillinois.net/). Re-Entry Illinois offers many resources for ex-felons in addition to help with housing.
The City of Chicago Affordable Housing (http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/dcd/supp_info/affordable_rentalhousingresourcelist.html) program is another good way to find suitable accommodations. While there are no guarantees of job placement, this is a good place to start. The information will be useful in many other areas of an ex-convicts’ life on the outside of prison. Part of the mandate of The Department of Housing and Economic Development (HED) (http://www.mass.gov/hed/) is to help those in need to find affordable housing. Some other agencies that are worth exploring for housing help include:
- ILHousingSearch.org (http://ilhousingsearch.org/)– while not dedicated to helping the ex-prisoners find housing, their list of available properties is a good start. You just never know what will happen.
- Direct 2 Housing (http://direct2housing.org/) – this organization serves mainly the metro Chicago area, and is an excellent way to find housing for ex-felons. The site allows you to narrow a search for what you need by using keywords such as “former offenders”, “permanent supportive housing” and “gender”. The dropdown menus make searching and using the site extremely easy.
- Chicago Housing Authority (http://www.thecha.org/) – even though they can deny applications due to criminal history, depending on the crime you were imprisoned for you may still find housing through this agency.
- Section 8 housing (http://www.section8programs.com/chicagoillinoise.html) is another source of housing for ex-felons.
- Safer Foundation (http://www.saferfoundation.org/) provides housing assistance to those most in need with funding from The Department of Housing and Urban Development. This is done under the Safer Foundation Housing Initiative where one-bedroom apartments are leased to clients.
Most ex-offenders will find that the types of crimes that put them at major disadvantages for finding housing are:
- Sex offences
- Violent crimes
- Drug offences
Regardless of how you go about finding housing as an ex-felon, you need to be truthful on your application. Just be as upfront as possible and try to convince renters that you are working to turn your life around and that you would appreciate their help in this area. Part of the problem with finding housing with a conviction is the five-year ban that is placed on ex-prisoners becoming eligible for public housing.
Other sites that the ex-felon can visit for help when looking for jobs and other types of assistance are:
- St. Leonard’s Ministries (http://slministries.org/): Apart from providing training and support, this church-based organization helps with job placement for men and women who were once behind bars.
- The HireNetwork (http://www.hirenetwork.org/): Offers services to ex-felons to help them in areas such as finding jobs. This organization’s resources include a listing of agencies that help ex-felons with job placement.
- The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) has a Federal Bonding program that offers insurance to high-risk workers including ex-criminals who need insurance to get certain types of jobs.
- Safer Foundation (http://www.saferfoundation.org/) helps people with criminal records find employment.
Jobs for felons in Illinois exist, and while it may be difficult to find employment, it is not impossible. Apart from starting your own freelance business, you can also use many of the resources mentioned above to help make your quest for gainful employment easier. Many of these agencies can also help you find suitable housing if you are an ex-felon.