Opportunities for cross-systems partnership and collaboration to help address the needs of people that are cycling through both the homelessness and juvenile/criminal justice systems echoed throughout the Lyceum on Wednesday, April 26th at the Partnership for Strong Communities’ (PSC) fourth IForum of the year, Navigating the Intersection of Homelessness and Criminal/Juvenile Justice System. With over 170 people in attendance, the event kicked off with a welcome by Alicia Woodsby, PSC’s executive director, who highlighted the connection between housing instability and recidivism, including an overview of Connecticut’s landscape and the collaboration to date to ensure that individuals are not being released into unsafe or unstable living situations that could lead to homelessness.
The first speaker, Naomi Smoot, executive director of the Coalition for Juvenile Justice, shared national data and research on the commonalities that exist among justice system involved youth and youth that are experiencing homelessness. Naomi discussed Ten Principles for Change policy and practice action recommendations that Connecticut can strive towards to make sure that juvenile justice involvement and homelessness does not have a lasting impact in the life of youth and young adults who are involved in both systems.
Following Naomi’s presentation, Margaret diZerega, project director at the Vera Institute of Justice, highlighted the important role public housing authorities can play in ensuring that people are not denied housing based on conviction or adjudication status. She provided examples and best practices from public housing authorities that are working to reform their policies and practices. Her presentation concluded by noting a unique opportunity for public authorities that are interested in changing their policies to apply for technical assistance.
The presentations were followed by a panel that explored the policy and practice changes that could be implemented to support the needs of individuals who are coming out of the criminal justice system and are at risk of experiencing homelessness. Moderated by Lael Chester, a research fellow at the Harvard Institute, panel members included:
- Scott Semple, Commissioner, CT Department of Correction
- Erika Nowakowski, Director of Youth Justice Initiatives, University of New Haven
- Kymian D. Ray, Program Manager, Juvenile Reentry Assistance Program, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
- Steven Smith, Program Manager, Adolescent and Juvenile Services, CT Department of Children and Families
- Kenneth Jackson, Outreach Supervisor, Street Safe Bridgeport
The panelists shared best practices and barriers from each of their agencies and programs that are addressing the needs of individuals who are involved in the juvenile and criminal justice system. They also underscored the importance of partnering with organizations that work in close collaboration with this population to help ensure that they have the services to be successfully reintegrated into their community. The panel wrapped up with promising program and policy suggestions for solutions to address the need outlined throughout the day. They encouraged all of the providers and stakeholders in the room to contribute to the conversation and be a part of the change.
CT-N covered the event, and the video can be accessed through their On Demand system by clicking here.
Event materials and additional resources:
- Speaker Biographies
- Addressing the Intersection of Juvenile Justice and Youth Homelessness: Principles for Change
- Opening Doors to Public Housing Request for Proposals for Technical Assistance
- Beyond Bars: Keeping Youth People Safe at Home and Out of Youth Prisons
- Forced into Breaking the Law the Criminalization of Homelessness in Connecticut
- Housing Not Handcuffs National Campaign