PHA Establishes Second Chance Program for Returning Citizens

(Philadelphia, PA - November 7, 2013) - The Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) Board of Commissioners has approved a Second Chance Housing Choice Voucher pilot program, designed to remove one of the major barriers that people on parole face to successfully reenter society. PHA will be the largest of 12 housing authorities taking part in this program.

In June 2011, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) urged housing authorities to provide returning citizens with a second chance to become productive members of society under the Second Chance Act of 2007.  PHA's new Second Chance program is intended to address the housing barriers returning citizens face after incarceration. The new program will provide 10 Housing Choice vouchers for applicants who are in good standing in the federal Supervision to Aid Reentry (STAR) Program and Mayor Nutter's Office of Re-Integration Services (RISE) Program.

"We believe that it's important to give people a second chance to rebuild their lives," said Kelvin A. Jeremiah, PHA President and CEO. "Lack of housing is a major barrier when formerly incarcerated individuals are rejoining their communities and seeking employment.  An address is often required when individuals apply for a job, but many private housing providers screen out and exclude returning citizens.  By undertaking this important initiative, PHA is doing its part to help these individuals rebuild their lives, start a new career and avoid a return to crime and prison. PHA is pleased to join with its federal and local partners to provide program participants a place to call home."

"Returning citizens often face challenges like lack of education, job skills and safe, affordable housing as they try to build productive lives in our neighborhoods," said Mayor Michael A. Nutter.  "These challenges contribute to high recidivism rates, which impacts the safety of our citizens and increases criminal justice costs for the City.  I am pleased that the Philadelphia Housing Authority is working with the STAR program and the City's RISE office to do its part in aiding the transition of these people."

Federal Judge Timothy Rice, who helps administer the STAR program, told the PHA Board that everyone who benefits from the program is a City of Philadelphia resident. He also stated that participants in the Second Chance program are monitored very closely.

"The program is based on having people come in to meet with you . . . every two weeks. They're intensely monitored by U.S. probation and we provide not only counseling and encouragement, but also tangible assistance such as job placement, job training, and assistance with various programs," Rice said. "It's a basic fact of human dignity that everyone deserves their own place."

The judge noted that this innovative program has been hugely successful. About half of the people on federal parole have it revoked. Last year, 100 former inmates graduated from the STAR program and lowered the City's recidivism rate from 18 percent to 14 percent.

The federal court in Philadelphia is one of the first jurisdictions in the U.S. to run a specialty court geared toward the reentry of former inmates. The STAR program was founded in 2007 with the goal of decreasing the rate of violent crime in Philadelphia.