UNION COUNTY JUSTICE BRIDGE HOUSING PROGRAM
The Justice Bridge Housing Program (JBHP) of the Housing Authority of Union County is a widely recognized and innovative program that is being studied for national replication. It serves non-violent offenders from Union County, all of whom have a substance abuse (drug or alcohol) disorder and are at high risk of recidivism. Participants receive monthly rental subsidies for up to 12 months or until they transition to the County's federally funded Housing Choice Voucher program or, if financially able, obtain market-rate housing. Participants also receive support services as long as they are on parole or probation.
Since the first tenant was housed in November, 2012, 28 individuals have been served in the program. Twenty-six (26) participants were referred by Union County Probation and 2 were referred by Pennsylvania State Parole. The average age of the participants is 33, ranging from 20 to 55. Of the 28 participants, 14 have transitioned to the Housing Choice Voucher Program, 1 was removed by probation, 3 left voluntarily, 1 is deceased and 1 remains on the JBHP. Only 8 or 29% have recidivated. This is lower than the County average of 53% and the state recidivism rate of 60%. Therefore this program has provided exceptional benefits to public safety.
While the cost of the JBHP is extremely modest, it results in significant savings to the County. Since Union County's jail is at maximum capacity, offenders are sent to neighboring county jails at a cost of $72/day, approximately $2,160/month. Last year alone, the county spent $800,000 for 30 inmates sent outside the county. This does not include the cost of healthcare, transportation and other sheriff's office costs. The annual cost of the JBHP to serve 10 persons for a year is $97,680, contrasted with $262,200 if these individuals were jailed. However, the actual costs to the county for serving these 10 individuals would only be $61,797 since a portion of the costs are already covered by the Federal Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program. In addition, all support services are provided to participants at no cost to the County. The important goal of the program is to ensure that participants become productive taxpaying citizens. At the current time there are 15 participants in the program, 14 of whom are employed and the other is disabled. Two of those employed are also full-time students. Over time this will reduce reliance on public benefits such as TANF and food stamps.
In summary, an annual investment by Union County into the JBHP will reduce the recidivism rate, county jail costs and have multiple positive benefits to the community, participants and their families. While the program has demonstrated that its actual cost may be less than the direct savings to Union County, the savings to the county over time resulting from reduced recidivism suggest an even greater return on the investment.
For more information or questions regarding our Justice Bridge Housing Program, You may contact MaryAnne Bridges at 570-522-1303 or email firstname.lastname@example.org