Giving Compass' Take:

• Lucius Couloute breaks down the homelessness statistics of formerly incarcerated people demographically and offers recommendations for reducing homelessness and recidivism in that population. 

• How can funders best support policy changes that will decrease homelessness and recidivism? What level of government is the best avenue for this change? 

• Learn more about housing first homelessness programs

In this report, we provide the first estimate of homelessness among the 5 million formerly incarcerated people living in the United States, finding that formerly incarcerated people are almost 10 times more likely to be homeless than the general public. We break down this data by race, gender, age and other demographics; we also show how many formerly incarcerated people are forced to live in places like hotels or motels, just one step from homelessness itself.

We find that rates of homelessness are especially high among specific demographics:

  • People who have been incarcerated more than once
  • People recently released from prison
  • People of color and women

We find that people experiencing cycles of incarceration and release - otherwise known as the “revolving door” of incarceration - are also more likely to be homeless.

Unfortunately, being homeless makes formerly incarcerated people more likely to be arrested and incarcerated again, thanks to policies that criminalize homelessness.

Nevertheless, our findings make it clear that the 600,000 people released from prisons each year face a housing crisis in urgent need of solutions. State and local reentry organizations must make housing a priority, and provide additional services thereafter - a strategy known as “Housing First.” If formerly incarcerated people are legally and financially excluded from safe, stable, and affordable housing, they cannot be expected to successfully reintegrate into their communities.


  • States should create clear-cut systems to help recently-released individuals find homes.
  • Ban the box on housing applications.
  • End the criminalization of homelessness.
  • Expand social services for the homeless, focusing on “Housing First.”

Read the full article about homelessness among formerly incarcerated people by Lucius Couloute at Prison Policy Initiative.