The Conrad Hilton Foundation Addresses the Link Between Housing and Recidivism

Are prisons intended to be dungeons or correctional institutions? Well, a 2014 Bureau of Justice Statistics report found that an estimated 77 percent of people released from prison were arrested for a new crime within five years. Key causes for recidivism include being unable to find decent employment and housing. The social costs of recidivism are huge, which is why the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation has partnered with the Los Angeles County Probation Department to expand access to housing and jobs for homeless probationers.

In late 2013, the Hilton Foundation partnered with the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services (DHS) on the Flexible Housing Subsidy Pool (FHSP) to house high-need homeless people in Los Angeles County who are dealing with complex physical and behavioral health issues. Through competitive bidding, San Francisco-based Brilliant Corners was selected as the nonprofit that would implement the program. Although it cost $14 million from the county and $4 million from the foundation, those in the housing program saw a reduction of 77 percent in ER visits and an 85 percent drop in overnight hospital stays, producing an average annual cost savings of $32,000 per person each year.

The FHSP program proved so successful that it attracted the attention of the L.A. County Probation Department. Marc Moorghen, communications director of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, tells Inside Philanthropy, “In autumn 2014, a workgroup composed of representatives from Probation, DHS, CSH (Corporation for Supportive Housing), and Brilliant Corners designed Breaking Barriers, a rapid rehousing program that leverages the flexibility of the FHSP and meets the unique needs of adult felony offenders who are on probation in Los Angeles County.”

Probation will refer eligible parolees to Brilliant Corners which will act as a liaison between renters and owners, doing landlord outreach and administering rent subsidies and payments. Clients enrolled in the Breaking Barriers program will also get case management and intensive help in finding employment through Chrysalis, a nonprofit employment services provider that specializes in serving homeless, formerly incarcerated, and low-income populations. DHS will provide program oversight.

In this private-public partnership, the Hilton Foundation has committed $2 million in funding while the county has invested $4.2 million. “The Breaking Barriers $6.2 million pilot will serve 200 to 300 adult probationers over a two year period to begin in June 2015,” Moorghen says. “Breaking Barriers participants will be expected to pay a percentage of the rent that is based on income with the goal of ‘transition in place,’ staying in their units and assuming full rental costs. This rapid rehousing model is an evidence based practice that has been successful with veterans and families.”

An external research firm will conduct a formal evaluation of the 2-year pilot.

Over the past twenty years the Hilton Foundation has targeted more than $80 million to end homelessness with $56 million of that total allocated to Los Angeles.