Zero Returns to Homelessness Initiative Launches Nationally, with Pennsylvania Leading the Way

July 8, 2024

In April 2024, The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center and the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), a component of the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs, launched a national initiative with a bold vision: securing housing for every person returning to their community from incarceration. Zero Returns to Homelessness is a multi-agency effort designed to support states and communities as they work to prevent and end homelessness for people returning from incarceration.  

Held on the final day of Second Chance Month 2024, the Zero Returns to Homelessness launch event broke new ground in the world of reentry housing. It also highlighted the pioneering efforts of Pennsylvania state officials, reentry housing and service providers, and people with lived experience to expand housing access for people reentering their communities. 

“Connecting people leaving prison to permanent housing through programs such as the Reentrants Attaining Community Housing (ReACH) is so critical to successful reentry,” said Kelly Evans, executive deputy secretary for Community Corrections and Reentry at the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC). “We’re proud that our reentry housing programs are two of many that have provided a roadmap for the implementation of Zero Returns to Homelessness.”  

Through the ReACH program, DOC officials are leveraging cross-systems collaboration with the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services and reentry housing and service providers to rapidly connect people to permanent housing. Now, with grant funding from BJA’s Second Chance Act Pay for Success program, the Pennsylvania DOC is expanding eligibility for housing assistance through the ReACH program.  

“Pennsylvania was chosen as the host site for this event because of the Department of Corrections’ demonstrated commitment to reducing and ending homelessness after incarceration. The state has long exemplified the principles and strategies that are the foundation of the Zero Returns to Homelessness initiative,” said Charles Francis, who leads the housing work at the CSG Justice Center.  

To further emphasize the life-changing impact of Pennsylvania’s reentry housing programs, the Zero Returns to Homelessness launch event highlighted the success stories of program participants who were provided housing through the ReACH program and are now stably residing in their communities. Participants movingly shared their journeys, including one person who now develops housing and sets aside units specifically for people returning to the community. 

“The Pennsylvania DOC ReACH program and other reentry housing programs show that not only is the vision of Zero Returns to Homelessness achievable, but it is replicable as long as you have the right partners, facilitation of housing and service access, and an emphasis on letting the data tell the story of success,” said Dr. Lucas Malishchak, deputy secretary for the Office of Reentry at the Pennsylvania DOC.   

This vision was originally formed in 2023 during the first-ever National Reentry Housing Symposium in Washington, D.C., where federal, state, and local leaders gathered to discuss the future of reentry housing.  

“Together, these leaders shared programs, best practices, and strategies designed to increase housing access for people in reentry, while discussing the steps required to promote and implement these on a national scale,” said Francis. “Less than a year later, it has become reality in the form of a new national initiative.“ 

For states, counties, and local and Tribal jurisdictions looking to follow in Pennsylvania’s footsteps and take on the Zero Returns to Homelessness vision to expand housing access in their communities, the Zero Returns to Homelessness website is now live with a suite of tools, resources, and guidance designed to drive meaningful change at both the policy and community levels.  

Additionally, the CSG Justice Center is accepting applications for the Zero Returns to Homelessness Cohort, which will provide a select group of state teams with extensive technical assistance support focused on solidifying long-term reentry housing plans. Anyone interested in further support can also sign up to receive updates or email 

Feature Image Caption: A permanent housing development in Harrisburg, PA with units dedicated to ReACH participants. It is being developed by Tarik Casteel, a man who was previously incarcerated and now develops housing. (photo credit: Thomas Coyne, CSG Justice Center) 

About the author

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Senior Policy Analyst, Behavioral Health
Sean Quitzau helps states and communities design and implement programs and policies that increase access to safe, affordable housing for individuals who have been involved with the criminal justice system. Before joining the CSG Justice Center, Sean worked as the
outreach team lead for SEARCH Homeless Services in Houston, TX, where he oversaw multiple street outreach programs designed to rapidly move people from the streets into permanent housing. Previously, Sean worked on policy in the Houston Mayor’s Office for Homeless Initiatives and as an advocate on behalf of the city’s nationally recognized “The Way Home” Housing First initiative. Sean has a BA in international affairs with a concentration in conflict resolution from The George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs.
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