Okay, Readers. Second only to getting a job – the biggest part of life after release from prison – after a felony conviction in general – is finding shelter.
Safe and Supportive Shelter – After a Felony
I’ve been homeless a few times – before and after my felony conviction. So, I’m all too aware of this major issue that millions of Americans face every day. The really depressing part is that there are absolutely no legal protections for housing anyone convicted of a crime – because, well, crime. Once we’ve been stamped with that bright red note – we seem to basically be SOL in finding security in society. (Note: If you’ve found something helpful for felons regarding housing- please share it because I’ve been hard pressed to find housing protections for people like us. And I’m a research nut.)
It’s almost as if the system doesn’t expect us to return to society (I can’t help the sassy tone there). The numbers of recent statistics concerning life after prison sort of confirms that idea – as within ten years – the majority of convicted felons end up with at least another arrest (if not a new conviction – yes, those are different). So, we are not likely to see any changes in legislation concerning our safe housing – outside of the poorly funded shelters and halfway homes that already exist.
This means we have to become creative and resourceful in our search for stable and safe housing to build our new lives.
This doesn’t mean lie to landlords about your record or trying to fabricate a good history. That will almost always backfire and put you in a worse situation as that one landlord can have connections to all the others in your area – which means a total lock-out. What I mean is that you want to think about finding supportive friends or family that can either offer housing to shelter you communally or offer character references that you can use in rental applications. I know, living with friends and family is never quite ideal – we’re a nation of individualists that want privacy – but sometimes we need to build up before we can reach that point of security. So, here is what I’ve found helpful in my own experiences of being a homeless felon looking for housing.
Letters of Character Reference – After Felony Help
Yes, I talk a lot about letters of character on the Friendly Felon – I’ve found that these letters are like gold. Hell, you can overcome some state-based restrictions – like working with the lottery in your local gas station – just by having 3 of these babies in your file for work – in Illinois at least – check your state for your statutes.
I’ve used these letters in so many situations that have popped up after my felony conviction that I’m convinced they are almost magical. From convincing landlords that I’m not evil to getting jobs with employers I never thought would hire me, to helping me earn my certificate of good conduct after my felony conviction – they’ve been lifesavers. Seriously. Magic.
Now, personally, I’ve collected a few letters from the officers that have arrested me (some on numerous occasions) and these have been especially powerful. It was the most awkward thing to ask for – but I also live in a small town and it wasn’t too difficult. For those of you who are in big cities or that have moved away from your home area – getting that sort of letter might prove difficult. In my case, the fellows with the shiny cuffs and tasers on their belts had been able to see exactly how much I had changed after the ‘big’ conviction and how I was honestly trying to find a better path. (Huzzah for small-town life I suppose…)
In the case that you don’t know your local officers like this, you can still rely rather heavily on the letters of reference from your employers (past and present). Every time you get a new job, be sure to get a letter from the previous employer – and don’t be shy about asking for letters like this once you’ve established a decent relationship with your boss. Co-workers and long-time friends (that haven’t appeared in the local paper’s court section) are also ideal for letters of reference. Family members aren’t going to hold the same weight – because family is going to be biased. Whether that bias is positive or negative – well – that’s ultimately personal and the letter recipient won’t know or care – they’ll just see the same last name and consider anything it says as a load of crap. So, stick with going for letters from people outside of your personal circle if possible.
Housing Authorities and Felony Backgrounds
So, in my research, I wasn’t able to find any real protections for those of us who have made mistakes and still need shelter. But, I did find that after ten years of good behavior (ie: no arrests/charges/convictions) – most housing authorities will allow you to reside within their communities or will at least look at each case individually. In some areas, this case by case evaluation is available even if you’re a bit more freshly convicted – so long as there aren’t any sexually based crimes on your record. Of course, drug convictions are equally as frustrating – even in light of the decriminalization of cannabis – which we know is a major source of criminal conviction (and the overpopulation of the for-profit prison system we see in action every day). So, each of our backgrounds will have different impacts on our lives as we try to move forward from our past.
Now, I know that this doesn’t offer much hope in the way of housing, but it’s better than no hope in my experience. Additionally, even while you might hear one “no” after another, eventually you’ll find someone willing to give you a chance. It might not be the ideal location or an ideal situation, but it’ll be somewhere to start from. And that’s the important thing – to keep starting over and pushing forward no matter how tough things can get. Cultivate your determination and strengthen your resolve my loves, because those qualities are going to be important as we continue to rise above our mistakes.
That’s all I have for now guys. Again, if you’ve found a nifty neato law or organization that helps house felons after conviction/release from prison – please let us know. Share that information and lift a fellow felon up into the light where we can grow together!
Love and Peace – Aza Enigma
Don’t forget to check out the Guide to Life After a Felony