Formerly incarcerated people are nearly 10 times more likely to experience homelessness than the general public.
Community organizations and other stakeholders are coming together to try and address this problem. The Big Bend AFTER Reentry Coalition is hosting a community discussion to find housing solutions for people who are being released from incarceration.
"It tells them that hey you're a valued member of society, we know you have value, and we know you can be something more than an inmate," said Jeff Haynes.
Haynes was released from prison 100 days ago and is currently one of five men who found housing after incarceration at Joseph House in Tallahassee.
However, it wasn't easy for him to find. Haynes said he wrote letters to 65 different organizations to find a place to live before being released. After almost a year of trying, Joseph House was the only one who responded and had space for him.
Now, he's using his experience in hopes that other inmates don't have the same struggles. "We also have the people on the inside who don't know the services that are available out there. So, I hope to bring awareness to the problem and open communication and dialogue in order that the people who have the services get to the people who need the services," said Haynes.
The Big Bend AFTER Reentry Coalition is working to collaborate with other community partners on addressing these housing problems to make sure that people who are released don't come out to nothing.
"The idea that they can land on their feet in supportive housing where they can have a safe place to stay but also get all of the resources that one needs to survive," said Coalition Chair Anne Meisenzahl.
The Director of Reentry & Inmate Programs at LCSO Larry Bordeau knows how important this issue is. "The problem is real, right so now it's just down at the table with all the different stakeholders and finding out what our best way to do address this problem," said Bordeau.
He said in 2021, the RISE Center helped 53 inmates who were in need of housing after being released. However, this year there are 135 inmates who need housing assistance. They've already had 507 people be released back into the community that identify as homeless.
Bordeau is hoping having these discussions and connecting different agencies will make a huge difference and reduce recidivism. "Go ahead and go on the offense and find some good ways, and the best way to do that is to bring people together and not work in silos and come up with the best process," said Bordeau.
The Big Bend AFTER Reentry Coalition is planning on having another meeting to discuss actionable steps in February 2023.