12 Ex-Offenders Will Get Public Apartments

The door is opening a little wider for ex-offenders to become law-abiding public-housing residents.

That’s because the Housing Authority of New Haven’s (HANH) Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday to approve a pilot program that allows preferential placement on lists for an apartment for up to 12 ex-offenders who would normally have been rejected by the authority’s regulations pertaining to past criminal record.

It’s HANH’s way of supporting the citywide effort to provide more “wraparound” services for ex-offenders and thereby cut down on recidivism.

Allan Appel PhotoAccording to HANH Assistant Executive Director Sheila Bell (pictured), prospects for the program will be referred to HANH by Amy Meek, who coordinates a Re-Entry Roundtable Initiative for ex-offenders. The ultimate decision to admit someone to public housing is HANH’s

In order to admit for the pilot someone who has recently been let out of jail, HANH is relaxing some of its rules. It currently rejects anyone who has committed a felony within the last ten years or certain classes of misdemeanors, like harming a child, within the last three years.

However, all federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) mandatory bases of denial are still in place, according to the pilot program proposal.

Those include finding unacceptable anyone currently using drugs or alcohol; anyone ever convicted of manufacturing methamphetamine on federal premises; anyone registered as a sex offender.

The proposal also allows elilgible ex-offender applicants to rejoin the household of an existing HANH resident.

“We are not under illusions this will be 100 per cent successful,” said HANH Executive Director Karen DuBois-Walton. “There will be recidivism, but with supports in place, it will help.”

Those “supports” include weekly meetings for a year between applicants and HANH social workers; and attendance at all recommended classes and therapies that are part of each applicant’s “action plan.” The aplicant also gives HANH staff the right to be in touch with parole officers.

Bell said all this will be written as an addendum into each participant’s lease.

Bell said she’s optimistic about how this program can help in the city’s larger efforts to help ex-offenders reintegrate into society. “Once they come to HANH, they can take advantage of the authority’s programs for job and computer training, and a whole array of support that normally an ex-offender would have to cobble together on his or her own,” she said.

Of 125 people who applied for an apartment in public housing in February, about 35 were rejected for criminal or credit reasons, according to HANH Section 8 Supervisor Tim Regan.

An unacceptable credit history will still remain as a basis to reject ex-offenders.

Who are the people likely to benefit most by the pilot?  “We deny a lot of young mothers, as opposed to career criminals [who should be denied]. [These are] people who have made a [single] mistake in their lives, and are denied housing,” said Evelise Iberia, whose job at HANH includes doing the paperwork and registration of the participants.

HANH Commissioners (pictured: Bob Solomon, Jason Turner, Lee Cruz) held a public hearing early in March.

Ribeiro said the responses by HANH residents at the well-attended hearing was generally positive.

One concern raised, as reported in a HANH a summary: That the 12 units not be in a single development. Bell said they would be spread throughout the city so as to avoid any stigmatizing. All, however, will be in public housing developments, not Section 8 housing.

In her printed comments in support of the program, New Haven Legal Assistance Association’s Shelly White, called the program “a laudable step forward in addressing the profound deprivation of basic human needs which recently incarcerated persons face in returning to their communities.”

Bell said that no additional funding is being budgeted or sought for the pilot program.

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posted by: James on March 17, 2010  12:29pm

So, the Housing Authority still pretends that there aren’t former offenders currently living in their properties? Good for them.

posted by: Sandstorm on March 17, 2010  1:28pm

I am very proud to be a New Havener. This is a most enlightened approach in positive engagement and reentry. Although there appears to be no way to prevent the socio-economic disparities of our judicial system, this will allow people a better opportunity to reframe and rebuild themselves.

Best wishes for the success of the program!!

posted by: get-licensed on March 17, 2010  3:13pm

yes its very good steps taken by Housing Authority of New Haven’s (HANH) Board of Commissioner. The proposal also allows elilgible ex-offender applicants to rejoin the household of an existing HANH resident.thats nice i am with these pilot program.thanks buy

posted by: Pioneer on March 17, 2010  5:35pm

Good for them, why don’t we open up some of those affordable housing units at 360 State Street for some of these ex-offenders :D

posted by: anon on March 17, 2010  8:20pm

I think it is laudable that something is being done about reintegration of those with criminal records, especially with the rates of conviction and incarceration in Connecticut.

I also know that entry has been the focus of local efforts for a while.

But it’s too bad that no one has been looking at the credit record issue since the economic downturn. Since then, lots of people who had excellent credit don’t, some for the first time in their lives.

I know some companies’s human resources personnel who say they used to eliminate employment candidates for poor credit reports but they’ve totally given that up since the downturn because it was killing off their applicant pool. So many applying for jobs were having credit issues and coming out of months and months of unemployment.

So, something should be done there. Wall Street ran the economy into the ground and we are all paying for it with jobs and housing while Wall Street gets bailed out. It’s really unjust to deny housing during this period of time based on that.

Re the reentry program, if not for the one year program with social workers tied to the crime/reentry program I would be dead set against it. Doing it right makes a difference.

I’ve had it with unrepentent offenders finding ways to get around eviction, exploiting pubic housing for generation after generation. That’s just service and subsidy hogging. So this is better.

posted by: anon on March 17, 2010  8:24pm

I do think, however, that new housing should be built on Everit Street rather than shoved up against the Hamden border where the residents won’t bother Yale.

posted by: kamb on March 17, 2010  8:54pm

I am still shocked when I read these articles, and even more shocked when I read these naive liberal ‘feel-good’ comments left by fellow New Haveners.

This plan sucks. Criminals get to much for free, too many breaks, and assistance they dont deserve and have not earned.

posted by: NewHavenerToo on March 17, 2010  10:09pm

Ridiculous.  When does a person stop becoming responsible for his or her actions?  Never.

Now I see that we are supposed to feel bad for those who are ex-offenders because they can’t get a friggin job.  THAT’S THE PRICE ONE PAYS!!!

By the way, has no one heard of the Veteran’s Section 8 housing program?  I didn’t even see it mentioned.  Well, John Q public, just so you know, a Veteran who is an ex-offender can get Section 8 now.  Isn’t it great! And the ONLY reason that they can get turned away is if the are registered sex offenders. The only requirement is that they are veteran’s.  Listen, if you want to take care of veteran’s take care of the LAW ABIDING ones.

Hasn’t the government already spent enough money on convicts?  No wonder kids can’t afford colleges and insurance is through the roof.

Although they CAN get Section 8 if they are convicted murderers, drug dealers, stalkers, bank robbers..

Unbelievable.  Way to go.

posted by: kamb on March 18, 2010  5:19am

Well said NewHavener! I’m fed up with these politicians who put these programs in place. We really need to voicde our opinion at the polls to change this country, state, and city. I’m sick of my money being spent on… people who complain about not getting enough from the government…..its not the governments money! Its mine and anyone who works and pays taxes!!!! I want my money spent on things to improve infastructure, schools, enforcement of laws.

posted by: Malvi Lennon on March 18, 2010  7:41am

I don’t know which is more pathetic the program or the New Haven residents who approve of this new “let’s give poor criminals a free ride” program. Has anyone heard of a little problem like budget deficit? IT IS HUGE!!!!!

posted by: LeeCruz on March 18, 2010  8:04am

We can just guess what to do or we can look at studies Studies by government and religious organizations seem to agree, helping a formerly incarcerated people to find a home and a job reduces the chances that they will go back into the system. Anyone that thinks that any effort of this type is going to keep people who are determined to be criminals from being criminals is delusional, this is about giving those who want to on the right track a chance. Maybe it is the chance this person never had before, maybe it is a chance they had and wasted, I don’t care.  I know how much it cost to keep just 1 person in prison for one year and it is considerably more than any housing subsidy and help getting a job.

If you want to build more prisons please do this with your tax dollar not mine, it does not provide a good return on investment unless you happen to own the company build and managing the prison. This is not about being liberal or conservative. This is about doing what work best for most of us in an imperfect world.

posted by: FairHavenRes on March 18, 2010  9:12am

Lee Cruz makes several very good points.  If you have served out your sentence, you have paid your debt and should be able to become a productive member of society.  However the current system makes it nearly impossible for released felons to obtain meaningful employment and start to lead a normal life again.  It’s considerably smarter (and cheaper) in the long run to help these individuals get back on their feet.  Those that aren’t interested in positively contributing to society will find themselves behind bars once again, but this allows those that ARE willing to improve their lives and move on.

posted by: Malvi Lennon on March 18, 2010  9:19am

@Lee Cruz
I favor lending a hand to people willing to help themselves. I do not see how giving criminals free housing in areas already riddled with crime, with easy access to drugs, weapons; etc is going to “save” us any money long term. An individual who wants to turn away from a life of crimes and start over can and will do so without free housing. Those looking for the free ride will more likely than not continue to rob, sell drugs, kill, and terrorize the few decent folks left in their communities. We are a free people. All of us were born with talents, some degree of intelligence and best of all a free will. While family of origin can influence the choices we make in life, bottom line is WE are free to choose between flipping burgers at McDonald’s or selling drugs on the street corner. As much as the criminals along with their cuddling saviors would like to blame mommy, daddy, government, society, etc for the choices people make there comes a time when people become responsible for their decisions. In other words, we as individuals are the only ones who choose to engage or not engage in criminal behavior, society cannot make us do anything good or bad.

posted by: Richard T.Spears on March 18, 2010  12:09pm

Hi, its sad that in the 21st Century we continue to have idots who don’t get it. We have to do something with exoffenders, who by the way are your uncles,aunts cousins and sister and brothers, oh ex Govenors like John Rolland. We have to invest in human structures/rehabiliation (people & families) before we can invest in motar and brick. We have become so sick nation in our values and have lost sight of what is important “People”.
HANH Keep doing what you do Shelia Bell is on the money and Amy. Thanks

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on March 18, 2010  1:20pm

The idea behind this initiative is that it is cheaper to give free or reduced housing to certain individuals than to provide no assistance at all. Once released from prison, people have to worry about getting a job and a place to live right away, in which case, the chances of recidivism are much greater. If the housing is taken care of, getting a job can be the focus and is much more achievable. This is perhaps a small step that will help some people and in the long run, will be cheaper for tax payers to pay for free cheap housing than paying to imprison people and replace whatever property they may have damaged committing a crime.
However, I tend to side with the people who think this is ridiculous (which it is). Essentially, failure has been accepted and we are working within a box of failure where life is unfair, unjust, and hopeless and this is how it will always be so measures like giving convicts free housing is seen as a “solution”. Help for released convicts will not come from the housing authority, it will come from meaningful employment that produces goods and services for the masses. So the people who think this is ridiculous are only half right, and in their only partially realized opinions, they are actually much worse than the people who think free housing for convicts is good. Just leaving people to fend for themselves will never work, it has never worked and it is completely idiotic and is a truly embarrassing position to have. In order to have the opinion that this initiative is ridiculous, you have to understand history and the current conditions that lead to crime. Winchester Repeating Arms, for example, used to employ 26,000+ residents of Newhallville, Dixwell and other parts of the city. Today it employs 0. That is the central problem. Released convicts don’t need a free job, but they do need easy access to employment, just like waves of immigrants had upon their arrival for decades. Until that is addressed and working class jobs are brought back to this city we will continue to have people who turn to crime as a way of living. It is much cheaper in the long run to spend tax dollars on creating jobs, than to spend it on prisons, public housing, over-inflated schools, and so on.

posted by: streever on March 18, 2010  1:24pm

What is the alternative you propose?

Can you propose a plan that costs us less, as taxpayers and citizens?

Jail costs a LOT per person incarcerated.

Having gone to jail and served their time, means exactly that. They have DONE their time. They HAVE been punished.

I’m sure you’ve never done anything wrong, but imagine if your punishment was life-long for anything. Is that fair?

More importantly than is it fair to the rehabilitated criminal, is it fair to society at large, to continue to pay for that individual over & over?

What is a convicted felon going to do… get a job & a lot of money and buy a house?

I have a feeling that if there are no options or support for them, they will simply start selling drugs or committing worse crimes. Think about it.

posted by: Richard T.Spears on March 18, 2010  4:25pm

Let’s face it takes courage to stand up and give someone a second chance and in today’s culture ex-offender belong to their own underprivileged society. They often have so many illnesses and health risks occurring together that their return is, in some cases, are less costly which is a healthcare issue rather than a public safety issue. (Where did I hear that debate before, no Cadillac plans here, in or out?)

Anyone who believes in building and filling more jail for ex-prisoners instead of more housing to which they can return, rather than become homelessness, among other problems, sends them on a U-turn back to lock-up. Those folks are living in the stone ages and are dangerous. We need creative starting points for planning post-release housing that reunites family and related services to support their reintegration into the community.

Among today’s exiting prisoners is a large new segment who, arguably, never belonged behind bars in the first place: those who committed only nonviolent drug offenses. In fact, 58 percent of drug prisoners have no history of violence or high level drug activity and three quarters of drug offenders in state prison have only been convicted of drug crimes. Thus, loads of people leave prisons each (25 a week in New Haven) a day that are anything but the stereotypical violent and dangerous convicts many imagine them to be. Yet, by virtue of having been behind bars, they are inalterably changed and their problems with reintegration and need of a place to live and work present challenges never imagined.

At one time, the transition out of prison helped with assimilation back home. Today, this process is changed for the worse. Now, recently released prisoners actually have fewer rehabilitation services inside prison, and, even less post-release help outside than they did a decade ago. Also, the likelihood of “success” (that is, staying out of prison) is in a downward slide. We need to do all we can to building individual life’s even if they are ex-offenders because it will be one less person committing crimes. Let’s not kick a good thing when it’s just getting started.

“Nurture your mind with great thoughts, for you will
never go any higher than you think.”

posted by: Linda Meyer on March 18, 2010  4:29pm

This is a very important step for helping recently incarcerated folks back into the community.  Without public housing, they are often in a Catch-22.  If they have no permanent housing, they often can’t get a job.  If they have no job, they can’t afford housing.  Reoffending can become the only way to survive.  Three cheers for HANH for helping to break the cycle!!

posted by: LeeCruz on March 18, 2010  4:38pm

Just a few facts:

Housing Authority housing is not free, I know because I grew up in housing owned by a Housing Authority. Every day I left for school my parents went to work to pay the rent. Now I own my own home, just a few blocks from HANH housing. HANH housing is not adjacent to my neighborhood; it is a part of my neighborhood. When we have neighborhood events such as a clean ups, the annual festival, movie night, art activities for kids, soccer, the Easter egg hunt or our annual Halloween party in the park we get a broad cross-section of the community. Our neighborhood, HANH housing included, is a place where New Haven families raise children, dream dreams of a better life and rest before a full week of work; at least those who are fortunate to have a job. Are there people who have been in prison, who use drugs and alcohol and who try to work as little as possible in our neighborhood, you bet—they live in HANH housing and in the surrounding houses and I am sure there are a few folks like this in other New Haven neighborhoods and surrounding towns.

Our neighborhood works because we don’t concern ourselves with where you came from we care about what you are doing now, where you want to go from here and the future you want for your children. Enlightened self-interest http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enlightened_self-interest is what makes our neighborhood work and there is research to back it up:  http://www.nytimes.com/2004/01/06/science/scientist-at-work-felton-earls-on-crime-as-science-a-neighbor-at-a-time.html?pagewanted=1

posted by: Amy Meek on March 18, 2010  4:40pm

I applaud the Housing Authority of New Haven for approving this program, and I’m looking forward to helping out with program admissions.

Research shows that recidivism rates are much lower among formerly incarcerated individuals who have access to stable, affordable housing.  By providing case management and access to other services, HANH can improve these individuals’ chances of success in finding or maintaining employment and reintegrating into society.  Successful reentry programs can help reduce crime rates and the amount we spend on incarceration, which benefits all of us.

posted by: Edward Mattison on March 18, 2010  5:26pm

I run a program that helps ex-offenders and homeless people who are willing to live in sober houses that require people to look for work, go to AA or NA meetings, agree to random drug tests, etc.  A lot of them do find jobs, get sober, reconnect to their families and stay away from their old drug using and criminal “friends.”  The cost of keeping someone in prison in Connecticut is $36,000 a year.  Why wouldn’t we want to give someone a chance to start over?  It’s great that the Housing Authority wants to do its part to make our community a safer place.  Ed

posted by: RC on March 18, 2010  8:54pm

Housing plays such an important role in reentry - both as a part of reestablishing a sense of security and as a permanent address that people can put down on their resumes and applications for other programs. It is unfortunate that ex-offenders have such a hard time finding a place to live, and this program is a much needed step towards the right direction.

posted by: NewHavenerToo on March 18, 2010  9:36pm

I posted a response to Streevers questions earlier this afternoon only to see this evening that it wasn;t posted.  Great going. “Independent” MY. EYE

posted by: New Haven Resident on March 19, 2010  9:26am

First let me say that I believe these people need a second chance and a place to live.  My beef is with the public housing concept.  Why do we lump all our poor in one place.  Wouldn’t it be better if there were some housing for low income scattered throughout the neighborhoods.  That way it would give kids growing up in low income situations the chance to see a different way of life, one that would not involve crime and drugs.  These families would get to know people in their neighborhood that might be of some help to them and also hopefully poorer families would see that with hard work, staying in school and not looking for a handout that they could improve their situations.  I look at some of these housing projects and thank god I did not have to raise my child there.

posted by: Paul on March 19, 2010  9:58am

While I think we all appreciate the need for ex-cons to be resettled in stable housing, we yet again see that there’s nothing all that temporary about this.

A few weeks ago we saw a grandchild who’s highest aspiration seemed to be to live in public housing - housing he won’t be paying for but is already laying claim to (!) - and now we see felons get moved to the top of the list.

Meanwhile, non-felon working families are paying for this and being asked to pay more and accept service cuts in the city budget.

(Also: after all the complaints about Hamden’s fence and assurances about how wonderful the new West Rock development will be, we find out that it’s going to be a home to people who just got out of jail? Are you joking?)

posted by: Consti2amend on March 21, 2010  10:09am

This issue is a double edged sword!  Yes, paroled/released convicts need a place to live.  No, we should not be forced into paying/subsidizing for their housing.  What do we do, what do we do?
1.  Open up the HANH housing.
2.  Have them report to the City roads, parks, etc. department to start their NON-union job!
Hey!  If you want them to have “free housing”, why NOT put them to work for it!
WORKFARE, NOT WELFARE!  Put someone from each department in charge of a group of “ex-cons”!  Give them ALL a broom, shovel, rake, etc, and start cleaning up the city!
This way, {it should} re-enforce in the “released” citizen, their NEED to re-integrate into society!

BTW, this position would be like “welfare workers {lol}” who do NOT get any other benefits for their work!  Can’t these programs be run just like the “summer jobs” programs?  Paycheck only??

Instead of just “bashing” this {original housing} idea, Come up with an alternative, OR keep your “opinions” to yourself!
BTW, no ONE idea is “the perfect plan”, BUT I did not read about many alternative plans here.

posted by: anon on March 23, 2010  9:22am

I am the anon who posted a comment on March 17. I’ve changed my mind a bit. I think the felons should receive services at the housing authority for the length of their probation. One year goes by quickly for a felon trying to get a job and straigten out.

Even with the bar on felons in public housing there are problems the housing authority is always dealing with, such as prostitution moving into a unit. Housing and police have to monitor and then get rid of it, it takes a period of months.

So it’s not like public housing doesn’t already have ongoing challenges to maintaining an environment of dignity for residents.

Recidivism among felons is lower with support, but will happen, so what happens if the first short year of support goes by and the felon lapses? Months, even years can go by where neighbors are subjected to the nuisance, such as drug dealing or guns, until the person is arrested for violating probation and new charges.

And what about the public housing complexes that still aren’t cleaned up to begin with? Hamilton is a pit for example, it’s a drive through drug store. Putting a reforming felon there would seem wierd.

posted by: BLESSED on March 30, 2010  1:49pm

This is a beautiful thing, some people just make a mistake and they hold it against them for the rest of their lives. Go New Haven. Some People really learn from their mistakes, and I feel no one should be homeless, and it would even be a greater thing, if they let siblings, move in with family member that are assistance programs, instead of them having to live on the streets, because someone get’s housing aassistance PROUD OF NEW HAVEN…

posted by: Larrisha washington on April 9, 2010  5:37pm

This is a beautiful thing i look forward to this because my name is on this list and i was denied for housing because of my background.So this is a blessing.