Associate feature: We must recognise the impact that homelessness has on people leaving prison

Written by Joe Connolly on 16 November 2017 in Comment

Joe Connolly, CEO of Ypeople, on the particular challenges facing the homeless population in prison

Image credit: YPeople

If we’re serious about reducing re-offending, it is vital that we recognise the impact that homelessness and insecure housing have on many people leaving prison.

In 2014, more than 900 people were classified as having no fixed abode when released from prison, which equates to more than five per cent of liberations. Figures also show that approximately one third of female prisoners lose their home while incarcerated.

Many of those Ypeople support in our homelessness services across Scotland have a history of offending. In many cases, the experience of being homeless has played a significant role in leading these individuals into criminal activity.

On top of that, there are also systemic problems which face the homeless population in prison. People who have worked their way through the homelessness system and find themselves imprisoned are inevitably thrown back into this vicious cycle on release; starting again from the beginning, losing their tenancy and all they had worked towards.

I recently heard someone say: “If a plant in your home isn’t growing, you don’t tell it ‘you’ve made bad life choices’. You change its environment, and provide what it needs to grow.”

The experience of being homeless is often highly traumatic for an individual. Providing a home which helps begin the process of recovery is essential to tackling that trauma.

We should also never underestimate the power which relationships can play – offering consistent, ongoing support is also a vital part of the process. That’s why Ypeople advocates for service users to keep homelessness cases open, avoiding that revolving door, and continue to work with them while they are in prison; we know that ‘stickability’ works.

A trauma-informed approach will literally put former prisoners in a better place, assisting their ability in the longer term to avoid re-offending and easing their return to normal society.

Joe Connolly is CEO of Ypeople

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