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A Radical Approach to Helping Former Prisoners Start Over: Let Them Into Your Home

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Sabina Crocette and London Croudy in the backyard of Crocette’s West Oakland townhouse.

Cayce Clifford

When she first got out, little things like crossing the street were difficult for London Croudy. “When you’re in prison, the only thing you’re thinking about is going home. You plan all these things in your mind, and then all of a sudden you get out and reality hits you,” Croudy says. “They are like, ‘Go find a job and get this ID,’ and you’re like, ‘Oh my god, Uber—what the hell is that?’ I feel left behind sometimes.”

After serving eight years of a 13-year sentence for conspiracy to distribute heroin, Croudy was released to live in a halfway house in Oakland, California, run by the private prison company GEO Group. She had to share a room with several people, and the beds and food were similar to those in prison. She had an hour of rec time and a strict curfew. “Just pretty much a step over incarceration,” she says. “Still walking around with fear.”

That changed when she met Sabina Crocette, a lawyer who was working at a prisoner-rights nonprofit. They started hanging out, and when Croudy asked Crocette if she knew anyone with an extra room to rent, Crocette remembered a new pilot program she’d heard about: the Homecoming Project, which pays people with a spare room to house those returning to the community after long prison sentences. Crocette had previously taken in formerly incarcerated people with mixed results, but she’d connected with Croudy and wanted to try it again. About two months later, Croudy moved in.

Croudy tears up remembering the first time she saw her new bedroom in Crocette’s West Oakland townhouse. Croudy assumed she’d basically be sleeping on the floor, but after she saw the queen-size bed and dresser dotted with fake candles, “this peace just came over me,” she says.

Few formerly incarcerated people land in such welcoming accommodations, particularly in the Bay Area’s absurdly overpriced housing market. In Alameda County, where the Homecoming Project operates, 4,800 people returned from state prisons in 2014. About one-quarter of the county’s residents have a criminal history, and at least 20,000 people—disproportionately people of color—face housing insta­bility........

© Mother Jones