housing options for reentry

The resources below outline the housing options potentially available to people with criminal records or who are reentering the community from prisons or jails. 

Public Housing
Private Housing
Supportive Housing
Transitional Housing
Related Links

Here are some general resources to start with:

Public Housing

Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) are meant to serve the most vulnerable people who could otherwise not afford or access housing on their own. There are three things that make someone ineligible for public housing - 1) they make too much money, 2) they are on the registered as a sex offender list, 3) they manufactured methamphetamine while living in public housing; otherwise PHAs have a lot of discretion to determine who they will house and keep housed.

  • HUD's guidance to PHAs: Read about HUD's guidance to PHAs that arrest records alone can not be the basis for denying housing and PHAs do have discretion to consider other circumstances.
  • When Discretion Means Denial: Encourage PHAs to read the Shriver Center Report on how their policies can discriminate against people seeking housing.
  • An Affordable Home on Re-entry: This guide from the National Housing Law Project provides information regarding eligibility and the application process for federal assisted housing for individuals who have been incarcerated and how to advocate for changes.
  • Public Housing for People with Criminal Histories:  Fact sheet from the Vera Institute of Justice with policies and community examples of how PHAs can expand access to housing for people with criminal records.
  • It Starts with Housing: HUD created this guide for public housing authorities interested in creating partnerships to support reentry programs.

Private Housing

Private landlords often use background checks to determine who they will rent to. Someone with a criminal record is therefore likely to be denied housing in a tight housing market when they are competing with others. The only other housing options for people are to live with family or friends who own their homes. 

Supportive Housing

We know from a large body of research that permanent supportive housing (PSH), which is a housing subsidy coupled with supportive services, is very successful at keeping very vulnerable people housed and also provides cost savings to the community. It is effective when using a Housing First approach, which provides housing first without preconditions such as sobriety or 'housing readiness'.

Who is eligible for PSH- Supportive housing is often funded by HUD homeless programs, which are targeted to people who are literally homeless by HUD's definition.

To be considered homeless when exiting prison or jail and therefore eligible for HUD homeless programs, individuals must have been residing in emergency shelter or a place not meant for habitation immediately prior to entering the institution and have exited the institution in less than 90 days. 

In some cases persons exiting after 90 days or who are at risk of homelessness can access housing programs depending on what programs are available in their community.

PSH is most often targeted to chronically homeless persons. Chronic homelessness is defined as a single individual (or head of household) with a disabling condition who has either: 1) Experienced homelessness for longer than a year, during which time the individual may have lived in a shelter, Safe Haven, or a place not meant for human habitation, or 2) experienced homelessness four or more times in the last three years, where the four episodes add up to 12 months. 

Other types of supportive housing work as well - Rapid rehousing is a form of supportive housing for households experiencing homelessness (not necessarily chronic homelessness) where they are placed in their own apartment or dwelling and provided with case management and rental assistance for as long as they need up to 24 months. 

How to access these services - in order to be screened for eligibility and prioritized for supportive housing programs including permanent supportive housing, rapid rehousing or other housing options paid for by homeless service dollars you must go through the Coordinated Entry process, which is set up in each Continuum of Care

More information

transitional housing

Halfway houses, transitional housing, residential reentry centers, etc. are all considered to be a temporary place for people exiting prisons or jails to stay before moving on to their own housing. 

Halfway houses are often mandated living situations for people who have been released early from prison or jail or have been sentenced to complete the remainder of their time in a halfway house or residential reentry center. 

CSG guide on halfway houses: lists the available research on the effectiveness and best practices of residential reentry centers. Corrections and reentry professionals can use this compendium guide to review the most relevant resources informing halfway house practices. This guide also highlights the relative paucity of research about the effectiveness of halfway houses in reducing recidivism and promoting successful reentry, and makes recommendations for future work in these areas.

Transitional housing funded by entities other than corrections can provide sober living or a step down option for people leaving institutions to help them adjust before moving into the community. Some programs require that the person would otherwise be homeless in order to be eligible.

More information -