LIFT is a collaborative project between JONAH, EXPO, and the City County Health Department, that arose out of a large grant from Community Catalyst of Washington D.C. through the Kresge Foundation, whose primary mission is to reduce barriers to housing for people with conviction histories.
- Learn from people with lived experience to really understand the problem and lift up their stories.
- Work to reduce barriers to people with criminal backgrounds by improving existing programs and encouraging entities to invest community benefit dollars.
- Build relationships with organizations and individuals connected to the issue.
- Provide community education on the issue of housing and conviction histories – how housing is a social determinant of health outcomes.
- Receive training from, and work with, the grantor.
Since November of 2019, this project team has:
- Built a team of JONAH staff, Health Dept, EXPO members, community advocates, professionals, people with conviction histories, and landlords.
- Collected 50 stories from people without a place to live who have conviction histories.
- Trained 9 individuals to be trainers in Social Determinants of Health.
- Worked with EXPO to pressure Gov. Evers to protect people in prison from COVID.
- Produced a survey to hear community response on the stay-at-home order around COVID.
- Collected Stories from landlords and parole officers who have worked with this population.
- Gathered data about the problem for health care and community education for a full-scale understanding of the complexities of the issue in our community, and of local and national approaches to solutions.
- Work with existing community programs to bring those being left behind back into these resources
- Find someone to invest financially in housing for people with conviction histories (we are starting with healthcare systems)
- Educate the community on the issue and why this population is important to invest in and how that can economically and socially benefit our society.
- Re-Introduce “Ban the Box” to remove the checkbox on rental and job applications indicating if you have a criminal background.
- Increase peer support and relational-based advocacy.
- Work with JONAH task forces on housing and criminal justice.
- Expand our policy support.
Why this work is needed:
“While health care providers do all they can to mitigate the effects of the streets, no amount of health care can substitute for stable housing.” – Source: National Health Care for the Homeless Council, Feb 2019
“15% of people were homeless within a year of incarceration.” – Source: Global Evidence for Peer Support: Humanizing Health Care. (2014)
Individuals released from jail without housing are:
- 7x more likely to violate parole;
- More likely to suffer from mental illness or substance abuse;
- Face increased rates of unemployment, risk of re-arrest and risks of relapsing into substance abuse.
Source: The Council of State Governments Justice Center NRRC FActs and Trends; and “Jail Incarceration, Homelessness and Mental Health: A National Study” by Psychiatric Services
Of the 15 existing housing programs available to people in the area (Source: LIFT Team):
- 100% of housing resources in Eau Claire County have a waiting list.
- 80% have conditions for acceptance that make it difficult for people to qualify.
- 26% do not take people with conviction histories AT ALL, but of the 73% that work willingly with most convictions people are still falling through the cracks.
- Only 6% (1 to be exact) have any wrap around services, although 2 have peer support available. 4 programs have case manager check-ins.
The main reason we do this project is because of the people we meet – people who have successfully turned their lives around because of stable housing, and those we know who have fallen through the cracks. We know first-hand that recovery and re-entry are complex but also possible. People have amazing stories and amazing potential when a community adequately supports their needs.
LIFT Team Members:
- Lynn Buske, JONAH Organizer and Project Lead
- Myriam Hernandez-Jennings, Community Catalyst Project Manager
- Cortney Nicholson, EC Health Department
- TJ Atkins, Executive Director of the Community Table
- Anthony Ledford, EXPO and JONAH Leader
- Nycki Wallsch, EXPO/FREE Organizer
- Kyle Brown, EXPO
- Mary Catherine Proctor, Lifelong Community Advocate
- Libby Richter, Social Worker at L.E. Philips
Guests are always welcome to attend meetings (every 2nd and 4th Thursday at 6:30pm) or join our team! Contact project lead at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.