Before formerly incarcerated people can find jobs, address health problems, or learn new skills, they first need a safe and stable place to live. Yet the odds are stacked against people leaving prison, despite their best intentions and ambitions. Many people have no home to return to and face a real estate market where affordable housing is scarce and potentially off-limits to someone with a criminal record. In effect, society marginalizes them, setting them up to fail, at the very moment they need a warm welcome home.
We looked at the growth of the sharing economy and saw a model that could be adapted to meet this need. The Homecoming Project provides stipends to homeowners in exchange for hosting someone returning home from prison. By matching formerly incarcerated people with safe and stable housing in the community, the project not only bridges a gap in services, it also bridges a social divide.
The project provides a strong screening and matching process, offers ongoing support services to participants related to effective communications, problem-solving, decision-making, and collaboration, and offers 1:1 coaching to both participants and hosts. Through this support and by setting clear rules and expectations for all, the project supports successful re-entry and in some cases is the start of a lasting relationship with benefits for everyone involved. It’s a win-win: Hosts enjoy additional income while helping to rebuild lives, reunite families, and strengthen communities. Returnees gain a safe and stable environment in which to begin to rebuild their lives.