Calls to Stop ‘Revolving Door’ Between Prisons and Homelessness
30 May 2017 at 3:34 pm
Peak homelessness bodies, together with criminal justice advocates, are calling for urgent action to see a “monumental boost” to social housing after new data found 4,000 people went from prison to living it rough last year.
Data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) and the Council to Homeless Persons (CHP), found the number of people exiting prisons with nowhere to go has increased by 54 per cent over the past three years.
Council for Homelessness CEO Jenny Smith said breaking the cycle of homelessness and prison required more housing and support.
“We’re seeing an insidious ‘revolving door’ phenomenon where very vulnerable people are stuck on a loop between homelessness and prison,” Smith said.
According to an AIHW report published in 2015 there was a strong correlation between homelessness and crime with 25 per cent of people entering prison reporting they were homeless immediately prior to imprisonment, and 31 per cent said they were being released into homelessness.
Smith said prisoners had the best chance of successful re-integration and avoiding reincarceration if they have stable, affordable and appropriate housing upon release.
“Reincarceration can occur due to offences related to homelessness, for example breaching parole conditions by not having a fixed address,” she said.
Despite an investment from the Victorian government to increase the number of workers in prisons who assist people in finding post-prison accommodation, Smith said there were very few permanent places for them to go.
“Upon release, a prisoner is faced with the crushing reality of the current housing crisis. They’ll be greeted by a private rental market that offers just four in 1,000 affordable properties for a single person on Newstart, and many years wait time for social housing,” Smith said.
CHP said the social housing waiting lists had “skyrocketed” to more than 35,000 in Victoria and 200,000 nationally.
A report by the Victorian Ombudsman found that less than 2 per cent of prisoners had access to transitional housing upon release, meaning that the majority of prisoners had to secure housing privately.
“People leaving prison often find themselves in rooming houses and crisis accommodation where they have no hope of getting their life back on track, and they’re at a higher risk of re-offending,” Smith said.
CHP, along with executives from welfare services that support offenders pre-and post-release, called for increased federal funding for homelessness services, and a boost to social housing.
“We can reduce rates of re-offending and simultaneously drive down homelessness by focussing on providing affordable, permanent housing. It’s a no-brainer,” Smith said.