Prison to public housing project to be tested in CNY

Local News

A new state project, placing former inmates with their families in public housing, will be tested with a pilot program in three communities, including Syracuse.

For Bill Simmons, the Executive Director of the Syracuse Housing Authority, saying “yes” to Governor Cuomo’s newest pilot program was a no-brainer.
 
“I was the first one to raise my hand because we’ve always had a history of working with individuals who have criminal backgrounds, in the Housing Authority,” said Simmons.
 
The project mirrors a similar program offered by the New York City Housing Authority.
 
“It was very, very successful. The program created an opportunity for individuals who were coming out of incarceration to reunite with their families,” said Simmons.
 
In Syracuse, twelve formerly incarcerated people will be screened and referred by the Department of Corrections.
 
“The referrals are coming directly from the parole system right out of incarceration and then if they’re good candidates and a good fit for the program, then they will get these case management services,” said Simmons.
 
The program aims for long-term stability beyond housing…and that’s where PEACE, Inc. comes into play.
 
“There’s criteria that has to be met, so it’s not just that we get the individual on a lease and then call it a day. We have to work with them to find employment and if they don’t find employment they have to be enrolled in an educational program or possibly a treatment program if drugs or alcohol are a problem,” said Mary Beth Welch, Director of Family Services, PEACE, Inc.
 
To ease the fears of some concerned neighbors, the offer will exclude some former inmates – including first degree sex offenders as well as those charged with making meth.
 
Simmons says others deserve a second chance.
 
“Many of those members who have been incarcerated have already learned a hard lesson, a hard way, often times make better tenants than some folks who have never been in the incarceration system,” said Simmons.
 
The Housing Authority hopes to get the selected former inmates moved into public housing within the next couple months. 
 
Schenectady and White Plains are the other two communities in New York State taking part in the program.

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