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Breaking the cycle of homelessness and reoffending

Key insight 11 March 2021

Homelessness and reoffending are often intertwined – each can be the cause and effect of the other. When individuals are released from prison without a stable place to live, they are much more likely to commit a further offence. For Michael, having previously been trapped in the revolving prison door, our housing brokerage work has provided him with the stronger foundations he needed to build himself a much better, crime-free future.

Michael was a prolific offender who had been in prison 37 times and had more than 107 convictions. His most recent was for criminal damage, but he also had a history of drug offences, thefts and burglaries.

Once back out in the community, it wouldn’t take long before Michael ended up in prison again. He was a heroin addict and most of his crime was fuelled by his drug addiction.

Michael came out of prison in July during the pandemic. He was homeless. Usually, he would come out and almost immediately reoffend.

Working with our housing support and brokerage services, we found Michael a one-bedroom flat. We gave him food parcels and provided essential items to help him set up his home.

Michael said it was the longest he had been out of prison without reoffending. He is sober – hasn’t touched drugs and is on a methadone prescription which his drug treatment provider is slowly reducing.

Although he has recently got into some rent arrears, our officer is helping him to manage his debt. She has also helped him gain some discretionary payments from the council so he can stay in his flat.

Michael said:

Housing has unlocked a lot of things for me. I’m feeling more settled and so this time around I will stay drug and crime-free. I want to have a better future than the one I’ve been living in previous years. Housing is the first step to starting my new journey.

He also said that because he is secure and has his drug addiction under control, he is engaging with the probation services better to complete his licence.

Providing vital help

Michael’s Housing and Support Worker, Sarah, knows that providing a place to live is key in helping prison leavers to create better crime-free lives for themselves.

Sarah said:

“Having previously worked with Michael, I was aware of the importance of accommodation to support him in reducing his reoffending. He is making really good progress and always speaks of a positive future.

“It has been very rewarding to see how someone with Michael’s past has been able to turn things around for the better.

I wish him all the best for his future and have no doubt he will continue to make positive changes, allowing him to lead a life free from substance misuse and offending.”

Accommodation – the problem

Over 75% of homelessness services in England support clients who are prison leavers.

67% of those who slept rough or were otherwise homeless went on to commit another crime within a year. For those living in “unsettled” or temporary accommodation, the rate of reoffending was also higher, at 54%, compared with 43% for those who had either a permanent home or short-term supported housing.

Homelessness causes other problems that increase an individual’s risk of reoffending. Without an address people can lack health support, ID to set up a bank account or to apply for jobs – these are essential basics required for people to successfully reintegrate back into our local communities.

There is a considerable risk that a prison sentence might actually make the factors associated with reoffending worse. A third will lose their house while in prison, two-thirds will lose their job, over a fifth will face increased financial problems and over two-fifths will lose contact with their family.

The Homelessness Reduction Act, which came into force in October 2018, puts an obligation on prison and probation services to refer prison leavers to local authorities if they are at risk of homelessness. However, charities have pointed out that this is often just a transfer of information rather than a resolution – with many single homeless people deemed “intentionally” homeless because they had been in prison.

Our service

Our work helps people to find a home or live independently.

We have specialist housing brokers who search, mediate and advise on the process of letting, purchasing, developing and accessing private and social affordable housing.

The support we provide, helps individuals with the support, skills and confidence to manage their homes, including budgeting, paying bills, setting up their home, claiming benefits they are entitled to, and dealing with disputes with neighbours.

For further information about how we can help to reduce reoffending and prevent crime, see our services pages, or contact us today.

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