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.
|Name||Total Amount||Description||Administering Agencies||Eligible Entities||Distribution Mechanisms
|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.||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.
||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|
 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 for an additional $350 billion in State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds for communities to address local fiscal priorities in response to the pandemic. Learn more about how to use these funds to advance safety and justice goals in our guide. State, local, and tribal governments can request recovery funds directly through the Treasury’s website.
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.
- The Role of Housing Supports in Reentry
- Discusses how housing reduces justice involvement and increases stability and how local strategies can increase access
- Reducing Homelessness for People with Behavioral Health Needs Leaving Prisons and Jails
- Provides an analysis of key housing issues and recommendations for California policymakers
- How One City Used Federal Funds to Create Reentry Housing Opportunities
- Describes how Salina, Kansas, uses HUD funding to provide rental assistance with support services at reentry
- The Role of Probation and Parole in Making Housing a Priority for People with Behavioral Health Needs
- Describes strategies for community supervision staff to facilitate connections to housing opportunities
- Center on Budget and Policy Priorities Issue Analyses:
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