Coming home after years in prison is a challenge in Germany too, says television producer Johannes Wiebus. Despite Germany’s comparatively robust social safety net, people struggle to fully reintegrate. Wiebus and his production team traveled to California to learn more about the Homecoming Project’s unique housing-first approach to reentry.
In a twist on Airbnb, The Homecoming Project provides subsidies to homeowners in exchange for renting a room at an affordable rate to someone returning home from prison. The result is a win-win. Hosts enjoy additional income—and a good housemate—while formerly incarcerated people have a safe and stable home in the community as an initial base on which to build a new life. It’s a far better set-up than transitional housing facilities that tend to mimic the prison environment and continue to separate people from the community.
“We love doing stories on innovative solutions to problems our audience can relate to, and…the idea behind the Homecoming Project just seems to make sense. With this documentary, we want to dive a bit deeper. How does it really work? What do the participant and host get out of it? What obstacles are there to overcome? … And could this work in Germany?”
To answer these and other questions, Weibus and a cinematographer spent time in Oakland with Marcus, his host Tawnya, and Abdul AliAkbar who works as a Community Navigator connecting participants with helpful organizations that range from job placement agencies to community health clinics. They also met Sherman, a Homecoming Project alum who now rents his own apartment and has a full time job. IJ’s VP of Innovations Aishatu Yusuf was also interviewed. The documentary premieres April 12th on Galileo, a popular and long running newsmagazine show produced by Jynx Productions. Roughly two million people tune in nightly, and millions more access Galileo content on YouTube.