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Ex-offenders struggle to find housing

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Competition for housing in San Francisco goes far beyond eager twenty-somethings searching for the perfect pad in the Marina.

According to a report released by the Board of Supervisors, more than 47 percent of ex-offenders are left without permanent housing in The City.

Many of these former inmates have been released as a result of Gov. Jerry Brown’s infamous realignment efforts, which are meant to reduce prison overcrowding but is creating a demand that San Francisco low-income housing cannot meet.

Ex-offenders on probation or parole are legally required to live in San Francisco, so they have nowhere to go except the street. This creates a vicious cycle, says a senior manager at the city’s Budget and Legislative Analyst’s Office, Severin Campbell. He told the Chronicle:

“You may be an ex-offender, but to San Francisco you’re just one of the homeless. But homelessness makes it easier to re-offend.”

As of last October, there were 5,818 ex-offenders under the supervision of the city’s Adult Probation Department, according to the Chronicle. Of the 5,818 ex-offenders, 417 were released under the state’s new realignment program, AB 109.

The city sets aside a mere 250 rooms for ex-inmates (many of them with a limited stay time of a month or less), so you do the math.

Not to mention, AB 109 is all about “realigning” less-serious felony offenders from the state to local level, so many of these people have a criminal record.

Unsurprisingly, that makes securing housing all the more difficult for former prisoners and all the more controversial for the thousands of low-income San Franciscans without a record who are competing for the same housing.

The Chronicle reported that the city has already established that discrimination on the basis of criminal background is a major housing issue and aims to prevent such discrimination. But without additional housing, the problem persists.

The Board of Supervisors’ report suggested one solution – moving ex-offenders to other counties when possible – but offered no input from other California counties or suggestion for how they might receive that idea.

Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi told the Chronicle:

“Housing is a critical issue for ex-offenders, and it’s a very vexing problem for San Francisco.”

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