How Three Communities Are Advancing Systems-Wide Change to Expand Access to Housing

May 7, 2024

Communities need systemic solutions to address the rising demand for housing opportunities for people with behavioral health needs leaving incarceration, especially in the face of a nationwide shortage of affordable housing. This requires working collaboratively with state and local agencies, bringing together state housing finance agencies, departments of correction, public defenders, service providers, and many others, as well as people with lived experience in these systems. 

To support this work, The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center and Corporation for Supportive Housing hosted a Community of Practice, where jurisdictions came together as cross-sector teams. A follow-up webinar series explored the pathways to creating systems-wide change and featured communities across the country innovating to increase housing access for this population. Key strategies that arose from these virtual sessions include (1) creating cross-agency governance structures, (2) aligning funding sources, and (3) reducing access barriers. Through these strategies, state policymakers can align their processes, funding, and policies to create dedicated pipelines that support new housing prioritized for this population while also working to advance racial equity and reduce systemic barriers.  

This article highlights how three jurisdictions are implementing these strategies and shares the steps that these teams are taking following their participation in our Community of Practice. It is the third in a series of web articles intended to elevate practical, innovative solutions for supporting people with behavioral health needs leaving incarceration.  


  • Population: People who have frequent interactions with the justice system, including people who do not meet U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s definition of “homelessness.” 
  • Focus of their work: Collaboratively build cross-agency governance structures across multiple sectors—Hawai’i Interagency Council on Homelessness, Hawai’i State Judiciary, Partners in Care (Oahu Continuum of Care), and Hawai’i Health & Harm Reduction Center—to develop new supportive housing by leveraging, braiding, or blending federal funding from multiple sources. Serve people who are not prioritized for existing evidence-based housing and supportive service interventions due to justice system involvement. 
  • Next steps: The state looks to build upon its template of developing single-site permanent supportive housing and experience with Medicaid demonstration waivers to test the delivery of new housing support and navigation services. This will help the state increase access to housing for people who experience homelessness but are excluded due to policy barriers through expanded services and rental assistance. 


  • Population: People with justice involvement and complex behavioral health needs. 
  • Focus of their work: Partner among the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, Texas State Affordable Housing Corporation, and Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) for a shared governance structure between housing and behavioral health systems. Reduce access barriers by aligning pre-release assessments to ask about and connect people to permanent housing options. 
  • Next steps: The state intends to work towards making a business case to align funding sources with existing state priorities, including investing in infrastructure and increasing efficiency in government. The team also plans to help educate state- and local-level stakeholders on the realities of the housing challenges people with justice involvement face through the Texas Behavioral Health and Justice Technical Assistance Center. 

Washington, DC 

  • Population: Adults leaving the DC jail and federal prisons, with a focus on single women. 
  • Focus of their work: Guide ongoing work within the District’s Re-Entry Collective Impact Effort, specifically providing a range of housing and services models to meet different levels of need. This project seeks to re-imagine a model for successful housing and services for people returning to their communities.
  • Next steps: The team aims to build on their current partnerships among community organizations, District agencies, and District leadership to develop a governance structure and reduce access barriers. One step toward this is the formation of a Returning Citizens Advisory Committee. The team is working to align funding sources to develop a pipeline of new housing development—with legislation pending to fund housing services for people returning to their communities—with a medium-term goal of 500 new units. The team recently broke ground on 52 new units of affordable housing. 

Additional Resources 

Photo by Pixabay via Pexels 

About the authors

Image for:
Project Manager, Behavioral Health
Thomas Coyne provides technical assistance to jurisdictions addressing the housing needs of people with mental illnesses who are involved with the criminal justice system. Prior to joining the CSG Justice Center, he worked on health and housing policy with the
Health & Housing Integration team at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. He brings field experience from social work, having worked extensively with people who have serious mental illnesses in Washington, DC, as well as with families reuniting with their children from foster care in Michigan. Thomas earned his BS in criminal justice and BA in sociology from Madonna University and his MPP from the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration at the George Washington University.
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