CASES Advocates Improved Access to Stable Housing in Open Letter to Cuomo and De Blasio

On September 15, CASES participated in an open letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio proposing several recommendations on how to further expand the State and City’s provision of housing for justice-involved individuals.

The letter was signed by all seventeen members of the New York Reentry Housing Workgroup, a committee established in 2014 by CSH [1] to promote the need for greater access to housing for people returning to the community from jail and prison.

According to a new report from CSH [2], well over 100,000 people are discharged from New York correctional facilities every year but, due to the exceedingly short supply of affordable housing, it is very often these individuals who are the first to be excluded. Because few housing providers are willing to accept applicants with a criminal record, those reentering the community are at very high risk of ending up homeless, in a shelter, or back in jail within months of their release.

In December 2014, the Mayor’s Task Force on Behavioral Health and the Criminal Justice System—a committee which features CASES CEO Joel Copperman—released an action plan announcing several new initiatives to tackle the City’s lack of suitable housing for justice-involved individuals with mental illness. Proposals included the launch of a housing planning team to assess access to various housing options available for people returning the community and the establishment of 267 new units of scattered-site housing for people with a history of cycling in an out of incarceration. Shortly after the report’s release, the New York State Office of Mental Health announced the development of 100 new supported housing units for people with serious mental illness being released from State prisons and returning to New York City.

In its letter, the Reentry Housing Workgroup applauded these efforts and offered several recommendations on how to build upon them—all of which are detailed in the Workgroup’s report, Promoting Access to Stable, Permanent Housing for All New Yorkers. The report explores the key challenges experienced by justice-involved individuals in accessing supportive, affordable, public, and market rate housing, and proposes 23 solutions on how to address these issues, including the enforcement of protections against blanket discrimination based on criminal records and the expansion of supportive housing eligibility criteria’s definition of “homeless” to encompass three-quarter house residents.

For more information, read the New York Reentry Housing Workgroup’s open letter [3] or visit CSH [1].