Many of the approximately 8,800 Canadians who leave federal prisons each year face an immediate, critical question: where will I live? Finding housing can be a challenge for people released from prison. They face many barriers, including poverty, discrimination and marginalization. This places many of them at risk of homelessness or housing insecurity.
The From Prison to Homelessness Solutions Lab will examine ways of addressing those challenges. It will explore how to increase the availability of suitable housing for Canadians leaving the prison system. It will also identify ways of providing employment skills training for offenders to increase their chances of finding meaningful employment. This will help address the shortage of skilled housing workers and break the incarceration–homelessness cycle among prison releasees.
3 Key Goals
Consult with justice-involved people, service providers and federal correctional authorities to gain a better understanding of the problem.
Explore opportunities and innovations to re-imagine pathways to accessible, affordable housing for Canadians leaving prison.
Identify ways for justice-involved individuals to gain employment skills training to improve their opportunities for meaningful employment.
Project scope and expected outcomes
The relationship between homelessness and incarceration
Research has shown that there is a bi-directional relationship between homelessness and incarceration. Homelessness increases the likelihood of future incarceration, and incarceration increases the likelihood of homelessness. Halfway houses, subsidized housing, supportive housing and private-sector housing are the main housing options for releasees, but they have limitations. Halfway houses are restricted to those on conditional release, and there is limited access to subsidized housing and supportive housing.
Most releasees rely on private sector housing, but they face a number of barriers. This includes discrimination because of their criminal records, multiple complex social and health needs, and poor tenancy histories. They may even lack proper IDs. The need is particularly acute among Indigenous people. They are faced with the existing housing crisis on Reserves or being excluded altogether from Reserves due to their criminal records.
The From Prison to Homelessness Solutions Lab will work to create a collaborative, human-centered design to the problem. Its goal is to reimagine the pathways to obtaining affordable housing and employment for Canadians leaving federal prison. The Lab’s primary premise is that the entire community benefits when prison releasees have stable, secure accommodation and in-demand skills.
Collaborative sessions and workshops
The Lab’s process is designed around a series of collaborative sessions and workshops. These will bring together government departments, non-profit and for-profit organizations, philanthropists and people with lived experience. Ideas will be co-developed, challenged, tested and refined for two regions: Kingston and Edmonton. These areas were selected based on their proximity to federal facilities and the readiness of stakeholders in those jurisdictions.
- The Definition Phase will include a kick-off meeting with Lab partners to confirm commitment, funding, accountability and project understanding. It will develop partnership agreements, the Lab governance structure and an engagement strategy. Lab participants will be identified and engaged.
- The Discovery Phase will involve a series of interviews with partners, key stakeholders and people with lived experience. It will include a literature review, a survey of best practices, and the development of stakeholder and system maps. Journey maps will also be created with people with lived experience in the prison system. A series of podcasts entitled Voices Inside & Out will be produced.
- The Ideation and Co-development Phase will hold system discovery and ideation sessions in Kingston and Edmonton. These sessions will develop new insights about what is needed and clarify different perspectives and opinions. They also will identify a wide range of potential solutions. Additional research will gather data on the most viable ideas.
- The Prototype and Test Phase will evaluate solutions to minimize risks and help demonstrate proof of concept. A prototyping session will be hosted virtually, with a solution summary report created and distributed after the session. Webinars will allow other stakeholders to provide input on solutions.
- The Roadmap Phase will create a roadmap that describes how solutions can be further developed and scaled for each location. The Lab’s steering committee will review the roadmap, discuss next steps and finalize communication activities. Communications materials will be prepared for lab participants and partners to share.
Reaching an extensive audience
Sharing knowledge from the Lab is a critical part of the process. A range of different products will be produced as part of the Lab. This includes the roadmap, a literature review, research data and analysis, lab reports, proof of concepts and more. The Voices Inside & Out podcast will interview justice-involved people about their reintegration journey and their challenges with housing.
The Lab has the opportunity to reach an extensive audience. John Howard Society will work with its partners to ensure the findings are shared through a variety of channels. This includes its provincial offices and the network of Lab partners. A presentation on the Lab will be made at conferences, such as the John Howard Society world symposium in 2021.
Program: Solutions Labs
Lab Title: From Prison to Homelessness: Ending a Perilous Trajectory
Lead Organization: The John Howard Society of Canada
Location: Kingston, ON, Ottawa, ON, and Edmonton, AB
- Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC)
- The John Howard Society of Alberta
- The John Howard Society of Toronto (JHST)
- National Associations Active in Criminal Justice (NAACJ)
Lab Consultant: Lansdowne Technologies Inc.
Get More Information:
Email Innovation-Research@cmhc.ca or visit our website to learn more about the initiatives under the National Housing Strategy.