New report on jail and homelessness
“Homeless and Jailed: Jailed and Homeless,” a new report by the John Howard Society of Toronto (JHST), explores the rates of homelessness among adult men serving sentences in jails in the Greater Toronto Area. JHST interviewed 363 sentenced prisoners who had spent a minimum of five consecutive nights in custody and who were within days of scheduled release from a provincial correctional facility in the GTA. For the purposes of this study, homelessness was defined as “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.”
Almost a quarter of respondents (22.9 percent) reported that they were homeless when incarcerated. The average stay in custody was a little more than two months. Half of the respondents indicated that they planned to return to their pre-custody housing situation, including staying in a shelter, on the street, or using a friend’s couch. Of those respondents who were homeless before being incarcerated, 85.5 percent anticipated being homeless again on discharge. Among respondents who were housed before being incarcerated, 16.4 percent anticipated being homeless upon discharge. Thirteen percent of respondents were homeless both before and after being incarcerated.
When respondents were asked to anticipate their service needs within the next six months, 95 percent requested at least one type of assistance. Most frequently requested services included help with transportation, housing, furniture and replacing identification documents. Most respondents also requested assistance with getting clothing and food, as well as work-related skills like upgrading education and employment skills training.
In terms of assistance with health care issues, 48 percent of respondents requested help dealing with addictions, 40 percent requested psychological counselling, and 40 percent requested help finding a doctor or health care provider.
For more information, including a link to the full report, see “More People Released from Jail Face Homelessness: Report,” Toronto Star, August 10, 2010, at www.thestar.com.