Harrisburg, PA – Today, First Lady Frances Wolf hosted Women in Reentry: Housing, the sixth in a series of virtual conversations with reentry advocates. The panel discussed how safe, affordable housing impacts female returning citizens, how government and organizations are responding to their housing needs, and how stigma around having a criminal record complicates access to housing.
Representative Dwight Evans, PA’s 3rd Congressional District
Meg Snead, Acting Secretary of the PA Department of Human Services (DHS)
Robin Wiessmann, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA)
Shawn Johnson, Director of Reentry and Social Services for Friends Rehabilitation Program
Deborah Gale, Vice President of Resident Services for HDC MidAtlantic
“Housing plays a role in every step of a woman’s reentry process from pre-release to securing employment to regaining custody of her children,” said First Lady Wolf. “If a woman does not have access to a home upon her return, the probability of reestablishing and maintaining what she lost during her time away is significantly lower. It is imperative that we include female returning citizens in housing initiatives, so we don’t lose them to the vicious cycle of recidivism.”
According to a 2018 report by the Prison Policy Initiative, formerly incarcerated people are almost 10 times more likely to be homeless than the general public. Rates of homelessness are especially high among individuals who have been incarcerated more than once, have recently been released from prison, people of color, and women.
“Access to housing is a critical piece of helping someone begin to acclimate to life back in their community. As we seek to help re-entering people ease their transition back to the community, we must be sure that they have the support they need to meet essential needs so they can support themselves and loved ones,” said Acting Secretary Snead. “We have a responsibility to invest in the wellbeing of people we serve. DHS will continue to do all we can to partner with our sister agencies and communities to be sure we are connecting re-entering people to supports available to assist them through this important time.”
For years DHS has partnered with other commonwealth agencies like PHFA and the PA Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) to address the various housing needs of Pennsylvanians. Their housing strategy includes removing barriers unique to each person, connecting people with housing opportunities, and expanding affordable housing in Pennsylvania.
Most recently, Governor Wolf announced $8.2 million in funding for the HOME Investment Partnership, which expands and preserves the supply of decent and affordable housing for low- and very low-income Pennsylvanians.
There has also been an emphasis on housing access for returning citizens from the federal government.
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