Expand access to safe and stable housing and supports

Updated June 15, 2021

For many people in the criminal justice system, finding safe and stable housing is a top priority. Yet limited affordable housing options, coupled with policy barriers and stigmas associated with a criminal record, present significant challenges. Many people in the justice system also have significant behavioral health needs that make it difficult for them to secure housing. The American Rescue Plan (ARP) includes more than $12 billion dedicated to housing and supportive services and additional flexible funding to states and localities that can be used to help people in the justice system quickly find and maintain affordable housing.

Funding Breakdown

 

Name Total Amount Description Administering Agencies Eligible Entities Distribution Mechanisms

 

End Date
Homelessness Assistance and Supportive Services Program(through the HOME program) $5 billion Develop affordable housing, provide for tenant-based rental assistance, supportive services, and non-congregate shelter spaces. Targeted toward people experiencing or at risk of homelessness, sexual or domestic violence, as well as veterans. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) States and local jurisdictions Formula allocation to city governments (60%) and state governments (40%). HUD has released a full grantee list September 30, 2025
Emergency Housing Vouchers $5 billion Expand emergency housing vouchers and service funding to local Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) to increase access to permanent housing, including survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking and people experiencing or at risk of experiencing homelessness. Service funding may be used for security deposits, utility assistance, unit owner outreach/incentives, and other costs essential to securing housing. In most cases, eligible households must be referred via the local Continuum of Care Coordinated Entry process.[1] HUD State and local PHAs Formula allocation. Webinars and open office hours for providers are offered via HUD. September 30, 2023
Emergency Assistance for Rural Housing $100 million Assist people residing in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) housing, including USDA section 515 affordable housing, who experienced a loss of income but are not currently receiving federal rental assistance. Department of Agriculture Households Individual grants September 30, 2022
Emergency Food and Shelter Program $400 million Allow Local Emergency Food and Shelter boards to provide one month’s rent, mortgage, or utility assistance to prevent eviction or foreclosure; repairs to mass shelters or mass care feeding sites; food; non-congregate shelters; or transportation costs. Funding is prioritized for moving people into permanent housing, helping people with mental illness or physical disabilities, and connecting people experiencing homelessness to other services and benefits.  Federal Emergency Management Agency Local Emergency Food and Shelter boards, which include social service organizations from local governments or nonprofits Formula allocation September 30, 2025
Housing Assistance and Supportive Services Programs for Native Americans $750 million Fund affordable housing activities, including rental assistance, the development or acquisition of affordable housing, and housing counseling. Funding may also be used for technical assistance and administrative costs. HUD Tribes and tribal governments Formula allocation September 30, 2025
Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund $122.7 billion Help safely reopen schools; address learning losses due to the pandemic, particularly for vulnerable populations; and address students’ social, emotional, and mental health needs.

  •  $800 million to identify and provide wraparound services and assistance for children and youth experiencing homelessness to attend school and school activities
Department of Education State and local education agencies Formula allocation, subgrants, and contracts September 30, 2023
Housing Counseling $100 million Counsel people at risk of eviction, foreclosure, loss of income, or homelessness. Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation Entities approved by HUD, state housing finance agencies, and NeighborWorks.Prioritizing organizations targeting people of color and low-income populations Competitive grants September 30, 2025

[1] A Continuum of Care (CoC) is a local planning entity that, among other activities, receives homeless assistance funding for housing and supportive services from HUD, prioritizes housing and services projects for funding, and coordinates intake and prioritization of people for housing and shelter placements. HUD requires that all CoCs maintain a Coordinated Entry System, a unified system of intake and prioritization that governs access to all housing and supportive service resources under the CoC’s jurisdiction.


The ARP provides an additional $350 billion in State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds for communities to address local fiscal priorities in response to the pandemic. Treasury guidance specifically allows these funds to be used for a wide range of housing investments, including development, vouchers, housing navigation, and supportive services.  State, local and Tribal governments can request recovery funds directly through the web portal on Treasury’s website.

Key Takeaways

1. Deploy rental assistance to immediately reduce homelessness for people leaving the justice system: Rental assistance measures, such as emergency housing vouchers, allow communities to quickly move people into permanent housing. Together, justice system leaders, PHAs, and housing services providers can determine how to prioritize people in the justice system for this assistance. In addition, PHAs receiving these vouchers should consider removing leasing restrictions on people with criminal histories in their Housing Choice Voucher Administrative Plans 

2. Expand affordable, permanent housing: The ARP is a rare infusion of substantial new federal resources for developing permanent housing, so criminal justice leaders should begin conversations early with state and local governments on prioritizing people involved with the justice system. Many projects will still need to leverage other funding to meet development costs, such as Low–Income Housing Tax Credits. State and local governments can also match funding for projects targeting people in the justice system to incentivize these developments. Successful new housing projects can serve as “proof of concept” to attract support for future development, including through outcomes-based models like “Pay for Success,” which tie funding to measurable progress and achievements.

3. Use housing as a platform to address complex care needs: By adopting a Housing First approach, new housing programs can connect people to permanent housing without preconditions such as sobriety or treatment engagement. This has been shown to increase housing retention and reduce future justice involvement while reducing costs to other public systems and providing a platform for recovery. Local leaders can couple this approach with the Permanent Supportive Housing model, which pairs affordable housing with intensive support services like case management and behavioral health treatment for people with the highest needs. 

Other Resources

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About the Authors


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Thomas Coyne
Senior Policy Analyst, 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
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Health & Housing Integration team at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. He brings field experience from social work, having working extensively with people with serious mental illness 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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    Charles Francis
    Project Manager, Behavioral Health
    Charles Francis works with state and local partners to reduce the number of people with behavioral health conditions in the justice system, focusing on policy responses at the intersection of criminal justice and housing. Before joining the CSG Justice Center,
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    Charley was assistant director of Leased Housing at Rhode Island Housing, where he oversaw the launch of the first fully electronic, statewide Section 8 waiting list. At the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, he played a lead role in implementing the Rental Assistance Demonstration program. Charley holds a master’s of public policy from the Heller School for Social Policy at Brandeis University and a BA from Hamilton College.
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