Why is transitional housing needed?

Imagine if you spent several years on a very rigid schedule. You didn’t choose when you ate, where you slept, or how you spent your day. Then, one day, you had total freedom to do anything you wanted. You might feel overwhelmed trying to think of where to even start. That can be what it feels like for a person who is transitioning out of prison. 

Going from the structured prison environment into the world outside of prison can be jarring. Some people have family or friends that can help them with the transition. But others don’t have a stable place to live – which makes the first few days and weeks out of prison really hard. 

Transitional housing is one emerging program that can support people as they leave prison. While this programming has existed for a while, it is growing in popularity among nonprofit and community support organizations because of the benefits it provides for residents. We’ll explain what transition housing is and outline a few of the reasons why it’s important. 

What is transitional housing?

Transitional housing is temporary, affordable, communal housing for people going through a life transition. For people leaving prison, transitional housing is a safe place to sleep and start to build a new life after prison. Transitional housing can take many different shapes, but usually they are small apartment-like buildings that house a dozen or so people. They usually have communal meeting and dining spaces for residents to use throughout the day. Oftentimes, transitional housing is located near community assets like shopping centers, public transportation routes and other amenities so residents can easily access resources they need. 

Why is it important?

Transitional housing is important because it provides a safe and reliable place for people to live after prison. While people living in transitional housing are not enrolled in formal justice programming, they do still have programmatic parameters to follow. These guidelines are less restrictive than those in prison, and are often geared around helping people find jobs, navigate addiction and prepare for fully independent living. These parameters can act as a safety net for people as they are learning to live independently again. 

This time of continued support is critically important because it can set a person up to fully reengage with society. They can rest assured that their housing is secure, that they know their meals will be provided, and that there are people looking out for their well-being while they work to secure a job and prepare for independent living. 

What happens at transitional housing?

While every transitional housing program is different, many offer similar amenities. Most include group meetings with programming tailored for the residents that live in the house. This could include workforce preparedness programming, addiction counseling, religious services, English language courses or other programs. There are also communal meals and opportunities to connect with people in the community. For the most part, transitional housing is what it sounds like – a place to live during a life transition! 

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