Making Toronto Safer
A Cost-Benefit Analysis of Transitional Housing Supports for Men Leaving Incarceration
The John Howard Society of Toronto
By: Open Policy and Chronicle Analytics
John Stapleton, Brendon Pooran, René Doucet
Commissioned by: The John Howard Society Toronto & Toronto Community Foundation
In early 2010, the John Howard Society of Toronto commissioned a cost benefit study and analysis of Transitional Housing and supports (THS) for two types of ex-prisoners moving to the community from incarceration. The first group is comprised of homeless ex-offenders while the latter group is comprised of s810 sexual offenders. The proposition was to calculate the cost savings (if any) associated with the intervention of Transitional Housing and supports as opposed to their absence.
The cost benefit study framed the intervention of THS as a public good and a service to the community as well as the ex-prisoner and assessed the benefit with all public stakeholders in mind. The latest available data was used to conduct the study. John Stapleton (Principal of Open Policy Ontario) in partnerships with Brendon Pooran and Rene Doucet (Chronicle Analytics) completed the study in November 2010.
The next step is to file a funding application to the City of Toronto to expand THS. If John Howard Toronto expands the support services and access to housing for those who have completed their sentencing in a correctional facility, it believes that the recidivism rate (re-offending rate) will decline. Lower recidivism is accepted as an important indicator of community safety.
Homeless and Jailed: Jailed and Homeless
The John Howard Society of Toronto
By: Amber Kellen, Project Director
Julie Freedman, Project Supervisor
Sylvia Novac and Linda Lapointe, Co-researchers
Richard Maaranen, Spatial Data Analyst
Angeline Wong, Lead Interviewer
This research was made possible with funding from the Homelessness Partnering Secretariat of Human Resources and Development Canada under the Homelessness Knowledge Development Program (HKDP).
Previous research has established that being homeless increases the likelihood of ending up in jail, while imprisonment increases the risk of homelessness and the length of time that homeless people spend in shelters. The number of homeless prisoners in Toronto area jails is increasing. And a small, but growing, number of men are caught in a revolving door between jails and shelters.
This report explores the housing situation of adult men serving sentences in Toronto area jails, focusing on those who are homeless. These prisoners‘ housing plans on discharge, as well as their immediate and anticipated service needs in the months after release, are documented. Their residential locations are mapped in relation to selected neighbourhood characteristics.
The survey results are based on interviews with 363 sentenced prisoners who have spent a minimum of five consecutive nights in custody and who are within days of scheduled release from one of four provincial correctional facilities in the Greater Toronto Area.
Among this group, 22.9 percent, or roughly one of every five prisoners, was homeless when incarcerated, that is they were staying in a shelter, living on the street (in places considered unfit for human habitation), in a treatment facility, or staying at the home of a friend, paying no rent. The latter situation is a common form of hidden homelessness; if persons in that situation are excluded, in line with a more conservative definition of homelessness, a total of 19.3 percent were homeless.
The average stay in custody was a little more than two months. Within days of discharge, the prisoners‘ housing plans indicate that their overall projected rate of homelessness would increase by 40 percent. Half of them plan to return to their pre-custody housing situation, even if it meant staying in a shelter, on the street, or using a friend‘s couch. Of those who were homeless before being incarcerated, the majority, 85.5 percent, anticipate being homeless again on discharge. Among prisoners who were housed before being incarcerated, 16.4 percent anticipate being homeless upon discharge.
Thirteen percent of the survey respondents were homeless both before and after being incarcerated.
Overall, 32.2 percent, or almost one of every three prisoners had plans upon discharge to go a shelter, live on the street, or couch-surf at the home of a friend. Another 12 percent of these prisoners are at risk of being homeless since they do not know where they will go. If these two groups are combined, a total of 44.6 percent are homeless or at risk of homelessness. This is a large, identifiable stream of people who should be targeted for assistance to reduce chronic homelessness. Analysts have pointed out repeatedly that relative to other homeless sub-groups, those who are chronically homeless have the greatest need for appropriate housing and services, an investment that would provide the largest social returns (Trypuc and Robinson 2009).
Homeless prisoners are a vulnerable group – they tend to be older, 22.3 percent are 50 years of age or older. A high proportion of them, 43.3 percent, have severe health impairments. Most of them rely on income support programs, whose benefits they lose while in jail; in many cases, they must re-apply for these benefits after they are discharged.
Homeless prisoners requested more types of service to deal with community re-entry than housed prisoners. Yet, almost all the prisoners (95 percent) said they needed various kinds of support.
Overall, the survey respondents were only slightly more likely than the general population to have been living in City-designated priority neighbourhoods which lack adequate services for the needs of residents. Homeless prisoners, however, were more likely to have been living either in priority neighbourhoods, many of which are in the inner suburbs, or downtown where services are concentrated.
Justice and Injustice
Homelessness, Crime, Victimization, and the Criminal Justice System
By Sylvia Novac, Joe Hermer, Emily Paradis, and Amber Kellen
Centre for Urban and Community Studies, University of Toronto with The John Howard Society of Toronto
Using the situation in Toronto as a case study, this multi‐method study explores various aspects of the
relationship between homelessness and the criminal justice system. The research was based on a
literature review; analysis of administrative data; review of client files; survey of 57 homeless individuals;
in‐depth interviews with 22 homeless individuals; focus groups with homeless individuals and service
providers; interviews with 23 key informants; and extensive compilation of prevention programs.
The literature review covers research findings on the high prevalence of incarceration among homeless
adults and youth; the vulnerability of homeless individuals with mental illness and patterns of
transinstitutionalization; the high prevalence of homelessness among ex‐offenders; criminalization of
homelessness and the regulation of public space; types of offences committed by homeless people; the
high level of victimization of homeless people; treatment of homeless people by the police and courts;
cost‐effectiveness of housing provision versus institutional facilities; and service needs, issues, and
Major findings include the following:
• The numbers of homeless persons arrested and cycling between jail and shelter are increasing yearly.
• Clients of the John Howard Society of Toronto who were homeless at intake had fewer violent, but
more property‐related, charges than those who were housed.
• Homeless individuals appreciate the need for law and order, but are highly critical of perceived unfair
policing practices, especially differential treatment of racialized persons.
• Although homeless individuals experience a high level of victimization, they are quite reluctant to
report crimes to the police and feel alienated from police protection.
• Lack of service co‐ordination and adequate discharge planning are major barriers to the community
reintegration of ex‐prisoners and contribute to homelessness.
Suggestions for change focus on provision of transitional and supportive housing, improved discharge
planning in provincial correctional facilities, and specialized programs for vulnerable sub‐groups.
Part Two of the report is a catalogue of more than 70 programs and policies to reduce homelessness
among ex‐prisoners and the incarceration of homeless individuals, and ten promising practices.
Services Across Canada
To find out more about your provincial/territorial John Howard Society, click on your province below. These links will take you to the respective homepage for your region. (There are currently no provincial JHS societies for Nunavut or Yukon Territory).