Structured Transitional Housing

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An average of 60 offenders are released from prison to supervision in Marion County each month. Roughly half of those offenders are homeless or in need of housing assistance and encounter a number of barriers in attempting to find stable housing.

Persons with felony records do not easily qualify for Section 8 housing vouchers, although a pilot program with Salem and Marion County Housing Authorities is assisting those persons with the greatest likelihood for success. However, the Salem Housing Authority has a waiting list that extends 18 to 24 months from initial application. Marion County Housing Authority’s wait time is three to six months, but housing is located outside of the Salem-Keizer urban core where jobs and transportation are more accessible. Oxford Houses are self-managed housing option for people in recovery, but are more appropriate for ex-offenders who have been in the community at least three to six months. Furthermore, Oxford Houses are not the best housing option for women wanting to reunite with their children. The Union Gospel Mission offers free shelter, but is not a long-term stable housing solution.

Tenant-Based Assistance (TBA) is an excellent program offering case management and support for people learning to live on their own, but slots are limited in Salem and Keizer (14 slots were available in 2007; only 4 in 2008) and TBA is most appropriate for ex-offenders after their first 90 days in the community. In short, Marion County has a woefully inadequate supply of transitional housing options for this population. And Marion County has no housing option that helps stabilize the ex-offender’s transition to the community during the critical period of the first 90 days after release.

In February 2008, a delegation from Marion County traveled to Eugene to tour a housing model in Lane County called Sponsors with a 20-year track record of success. Sponsors offers 90-day transitional housing for men and women upon release from prison. It relies on strict accountability through non-profit program staff and Parole & Probation officers who have drop-in office space on site, rapid connections to employment and/or education, and a “forced savings” program that results in the client being in the position to self-fund rent and deposits upon completion of the program. Sponsors Executive Director Ron Chase and Paul Solomon, Director of Men’s Services, presented information to the Guido Caldarazzo Methamphetamine Task Force about replicating Sponsors in Marion County. Terry McDonald, director of St. Vincent de Paul in Lane County, also participated in the discussion. St. Vincent de Paul in Lane County has a significant portfolio of transitional housing units.

The Marion County Reentry Initiative’s transitional housing initiative received a federal earmark grant that started the a 90-day transitional housing site in Marion County with structured programming for men. The first project, a 12-bed unit in east Salem, was started by St. Vincent de Paul and now is operated by Mid-Willamette Community Action Agency. This first transitional housing program titled, Quest For Change (QFC) transitional housing, began operation in spring of 2009. By the late fall of 2009, requests for slots in the housing program were booked out 6-9 months.

Each man who resides at Quest For Change transitional housing participates in regular, evidence-based programming modules/classes that include communication, motivation, building pro-social support systems, managing emotions, parenting, and other criminal justice focused domains. Several of the modules utilized are from SAMHSA's NREPP listed TCU (Texas Christian University) Mapping-Enhanced Counseling. The parenting component comes from the EBP of Parent Management Training via the Parenting Inside Out program. Utilizing skills learned on site, the residents at Quest For Change also focus on gaining employment. Another key element of the housing program, presented at the beginning orientation to Quest is each resident's role, short and long term. This includes their challenge (and obligation) to help this pilot program succeed. If they do not return to criminal activities and do gain employment and do apply what they learn in classes, their success is the success of the program and potentially the opportunity to expand the program to others. Their role as "Trail Blazers" with this program is clearly delineated, which increases on several levels and the personal engagement in the program. To date, a wide age range of residents have successfully graduated from the program, including individuals as young as early twentys and those who were at retirement age.

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