What is the Homecoming Project?
The Homecoming Project is an innovative program that provides daily subsidies to homeowners in exchange for providing living space to a person returning home from prison. The Homecoming Project leverages extra living spaces within Alameda, Contra Costa, and Los Angeles Counties to provide a welcoming initial home for people who have served lengthy prison terms and who will benefit greatly from the six months of free housing, the relationships they form with their hosts, and the individually-tailored assistance that the program provides.
How is the Homecoming Project similar to Airbnb?
The Homecoming Project also leverages the potential of the sharing economy, but in this case we specifically house people returning home from prison. Project staff assess the needs and preferences of each participant and match them with suitable hosts. Staff also screen hosts and their homes for nurturing environments that will accommodate a vulnerable individual going through a challenging life transition. Both host and participant get to know one another through matching sessions before the match is finalized in order to create a compatible co-housing situation. While Airbnb renters pay their hosts directly, the Homecoming Project pays hosts a $45 daily stipend for up to six months.
Why is a shared economy approach necessary?
Current market rate rooms, apartments, and homes are financially beyond reach for most people just coming home from prison. Limited housing options are among the countless re-entry barriers, also known as ‘collateral consequences’ of incarceration.
How do you match community hosts with participants?
The Homecoming Project reviews each participant’s application and shares several applications with available hosts based on the participants’ goals, lifestyle habits, personal activities, and personality type. The host reviews each application and has the opportunity to meet with applicants before determining which participant would be most compatible. Both host and participant get to know one another through matching conversations before a housing arrangement is finalized in order to create a compatible co-housing situation.
How do you screen and vet community hosts and participants to promote matches?
The Homecoming Project has a full-time staff member who works closely with prospective community hosts. To be eligible, hosts must be the homeowner or have consent from the homeowner to host a participant, have a spare room in their home with access to a bathroom for the participant, pass an initial interview with staff, and subsequent HUD inspection of their home. To promote matches, the host will also be interviewed about their ideal roommate relationship and participate in a Q&A to discuss expectations and responsibilities related to hosting.
Potential participants are screened by Homecoming Project team members at various stages of their re-entry, including: while in-custody or in transitional homes/halfway houses. Participant screening includes an assessment adapted from the Ohio Risk Assessment System Community Supervision Tool and the Texas Christian University Client Evaluation of Self and Treatment, a valid and reliable assessment required by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). Participants provide CDCR results of their Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sentencing, the primary tool used by CDCR to assess an individual’s level of risk when they return to communities after discharge from prison. Moreover, prospective participants are required to submit verification of their participation in at least three in-custody rehabilitative programs as a way to demonstrate commitment to their own rehabilitation.
Are there similar models currently in existence?
The Homecoming Project is the first of its kind. There is no other model that subsidizes the use of existing and underutilized living spaces specifically for people coming home from prison.
How long will a participant be placed in a host’s home?
A participant typically lives with a community host for six months. However, a host can choose to house a participant for just 45 days or less. These short-term “emergency placements” are offered primarily to eligible participants that haven’t yet been matched with a longer-term host. The stipend for an emergency placement is $35 a day.
What happens after a participant's time is up/after the subsidy ends (after 6 months)?
Participants often work with their Homecoming Project community navigator to find a room or apartment for rent. Others move in with a partner or other family members, and in some cases, the host and participant decide to extend their co-housing situation beyond the subsidy period, reaching a mutually agreeable rental arrangement independent of the Homecoming Project.
Do participants typically leave before 6 months?
Participants typically stay for the entire 6-month period. If a participant has secured housing prior to their scheduled end date, they must give Impact Justice and their host at least seven days’ notice before their expected move-out date to ease the transition.
What’s your success rate?
In Alameda County, the Homecoming Project has matched more than 100 people with compatible hosts. All of them have left the program with stable housing of their own; 95% leave with a job and/or are enrolled in a job training or educational program. To date, the project has a 0% recidivism rate, meaning none of our participants have returned to prison.
Information for Community Hosts
What is required of me as a community host?
As a community host, your commitment is to provide a suitable living space for a participant in exchange for a daily subsidy, which includes utilities. Hosts are also required to attend an initial orientation and bi-monthly educational trainings. While there are no specific requirements for engaging with participants, hosts are encouraged to bond with people in ways that promote a healthy home environment and ease their transition back to the community after a long period of incarceration.
How much is the daily subsidy I will receive as a host?
Community hosts will receive $45 for each day a participant lives in their host home, or up to $1,395 per month, for up to 6 months. Hosts also receive a one-time security deposit of $400. The subsidy and security deposit are paid to hosts via electronic deposits or by check, depending on the host’s preference. The subsidy covers rent and utilities only. Participants are responsible for purchasing their own groceries and other items needed for daily living.
A host can choose to house a participant for up to 45 days. These “emergency placements” are offered primarily to participants who are actively in the “matching process” until they are paired with a host for the 6-month program term. The daily stipend for an “emergency placement” is $35 for each day a participant lives in the home. Security deposits are not provided. Some of these short-term “emergency placements” are rental properties located separately from the host’s home, but these hosts are still expected to meet all eligibility requirements and expectations, including attending training sessions.
Can parole and law enforcement really search my entire home, property, and vehicle(s)?
Yes, a parole agent and law enforcement can search your home. However, these searches are limited to areas that the participant frequents. For example, an officer will not be able to search a host’s bedroom but would be authorized to search the bathroom if the host and participant share it.
Do I need to inform my neighbors about a participant living in my home?
No. If you are the owner, you are not mandated to disclose any information about the participant living with you, and we suggest that you ask the participant what information, if any, they are comfortable with you disclosing.
Do I need to inform my landlord about a Homecoming participant living with me?
Yes, if you rent your house or apartment, you must secure written approval from the landlord /property owner before participating in the Homecoming Project.
Information for Participants
What is required of me as a participant?
As a participant, you are required to abide by the written agreement you sign that covers your participation in the Homecoming Project as well as your host’s house rules (rules must be pre-approved by the Homecoming Project). Participants must actively search for and secure a job or placement in an educational and/or employment program.
Program participants are required to meet in-person with their assigned community navigator and be in regular communication with them. They must also participate in community-based programming and services depending on their individually-tailored re-entry plans.
What does the life-coaching/mentoring/case management component entail?
Upon release from lengthy incarceration stays, participants likely will need wraparound supportive services that range in frequency and intensity for each person, depending on their needs related to employment, education, (long-term) housing, family reunification, behavioral health issues (mental health and/or substance abuse treatment), physical health care and wellbeing, benefits enrollment, identification, documentation and legal services, among other needs. The Community Navigator, or case manager, works closely with participants to identify what resources best address their individualized needs.
When do participants begin to identify and secure long-term housing?
Participants can begin looking for long-term housing immediately, knowing they have up to six months to find housing that meets their needs and that they can afford. The relationships people build with their hosts and members of the community often help people find long-term housing, and the six months also gives people time to find work and save the money needed for a security deposit.
Safety and Compliance
What happens if a participant or host is non-compliant with the Homecoming Project rules?
Upon acceptance, the host and participant must agree to and abide by program expectations and terms set by the Homecoming Project.. Non-compliance will result in discharge from participation in The Homecoming Project and as applicable, participants might be subject to further action from the parole department.
How does the program ensure the safety of hosts and participants?
The Homecoming Project staff conduct scheduled check-ins with participants and hosts and provide ongoing monitoring and support. We have written procedures establishing who participants and hosts should contact to address specific types of issues.
Are participants permitted to just hang out at home all day?
No. Program participants are required to participate in community-based programming and services depending on their individually-tailored life plans.