On August 1, 2018, the Homecoming Project placed its first participant, KC, with host Terri. And what a three years it’s been since then! KC is now an advocate for the LGBTQ+ community and enjoys living on his own while serving his community — and his story of success isn’t uncommon for the 57 participants the Homecoming Project has housed so far.
The Homecoming Project is a beautiful answer to Project Manager Terah Harper-Lawyer’s question in Mother Jones: “How can the community heal the community?” The Homecoming Project does much more than provide a place to live, although that’s the critical piece of the puzzle that makes it easier for all the other remarkable things THP facilitates to fall into place. Having a welcoming and stable place to live for six months means participants can focus on working towards their dreams for the future: reuniting with families, giving back to their communities, and starting careers.
It’s hard to believe now that we’ve seen the incredible success of The Homecoming Project, but it wasn’t always easy in the beginning. Our team worked hard to build confidence in this bold new idea that would leverage the sharing economy to do three things at once: provide housing for formerly incarcerated people returning to their communities, support those communities by channeling money back into them, and build a network that would support participants returning home.
Early support from an anonymous donor, along with grants from the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society and the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development helped place our first participant and formally launch Homecoming. More recent grants from Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the San Francisco Foundation, and Enterprise Community Partners, along with generous donations from the community, have helped fully realize Homecoming’s vision that an “Airbnb for people leaving prison” could work. And recently, we’ve been recognized outside of the criminal justice funding world, winning the Ivory Prize for Housing Affordability and being accepted into the Berkeley Housing Lab.
The Homecoming Project has also been the subject of media pieces profiling the experiences of our participants. It’s clear that their stories, which have been featured in NPR, The Atlantic, the New York Times, El Espectador, Jails to Jobs, and many, many more, are resonating with people across the country.
We’re looking forward to hearing many more stories of the incredible things (big and small) that Homecoming participants go on to do. Participants like Richard, who after serving 30 years in prison, successfully completed the program and now works at a Bay Area nonprofit. Richard purchased his own home and is now a host in the program. Congratulations on a groundbreaking first three years to the Homecoming Project team, hosts, and participants!