Our national data shows that the number of Americans caught in a revolving door between the streets, shelters, and jails may reach the tens of thousands.
Roughly 48,000 people entering shelters every year are coming nearly directly from prisons or jails. Of the 11 million people detained or incarcerated in jails every year, as many as 15% report having been homeless.
While homelessness has many causes, some of which have to do with larger economic forces, it is also caused and exacerbated by the policy choices we make in our communities and as a nation. When communities pursue policies that criminalize homelessness, when we severely punish people for minor drug possession or for assault charges related to mental health decompensation, or when we fail to adequately assist people leaving jails or prisons to obtain housing, services, and employment, we contribute to and worsen the problem of homelessness, particularly unsheltered homelessness.
Recognizing the role that federal leadership can play in breaking this cycle, the Council is pursuing steps to reduce criminal justice system involvement among people experiencing homelessness, both by reducing the criminalization of homelessness and the return of people from correctional settings to homelessness. Specific action areas include: