OCHA Joins Opening Doors to Public Housing Initiative

Oklahoma City Housing Authority Joins Vera Institute of Justice in Initiative to Increase Access to Public Housing for Formerly Incarcerated People

Funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the initiative will implement reentry programs & improve admissions policies for people with conviction histories

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma - Access to safe and affordable housing is a right often not afforded to formerly incarcerated people—challenges such as affordability, restrictive housing policies, lack of employment and credit history, and the stigma of having a criminal conviction may hinder one’s chances of securing a place to live. Yet, for more than 600,000 people leaving prison and the nearly 11 million cycling through jails annually, research shows that safe, affordable housing is essential for them to succeed after they are released. At present, admissions criteria across much of the country’s public housing restricts people with conviction histories from either moving back in with their family members or obtaining their own housing on release.

Today, Oklahoma City Housing Authority announced a new partnership with the Vera Institute of Justice (Vera), with support from the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), to join the Opening Doors to Public Housing Initiative, a national project that aims to substantially change public housing admissions policies and reduce barriers that prevent people from safely and successfully reentering their communities once released from prison or jail. Oklahoma City Housing Authority joins a cohort of public housing authorities (PHAs) and consortia of agencies selected through a competitive application process, including: Lafayette Housing Authority (LA), Housing Authority of the County of San Diego in collaboration with five housing authorities (CA), and a state consortium of five agencies led by the Delaware State Housing Authority.

“Increasing access to public housing for formerly incarcerated people or those with conviction histories improves safety in all our communities. Securing safe, decent housing is often a prerequisite for employment, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and managing a successful transition to becoming a contributing member of society. With Vera’s assistance, we can work collaboratively on reviewing policies and implementing programs to better serve the justice population.”
—William Citty, Chief, Oklahoma City Police Department

“Having partnerships with local reentry stakeholders provides a great opportunity for the Oklahoma City Housing Authority to provide affordable, decent, and safe housing assistance to justice-involved individuals. The positive effects of strengthening family relationships cannot be overstated as they relate to maintaining a safe and peaceful community.”
—Dan Flanagan, Chief of Security, Oklahoma City Housing Authority

The eight lead PHAs vary in geography, the number and types of units managed, metropolitan population, and resident diversity. All of the PHAs have demonstrated a commitment to partnering with local law enforcement and other stakeholders.

“All of society benefits when formerly incarcerated people are able to reintegrate safely and successfully back into the community”, said Margaret diZerega, Project Director at the Vera Institute of Justice. “By partnering with housing authorities, residents, law enforcement, and community partners, we can assess admissions policies for people with conviction histories and facilitate safe reentry. We are deeply encouraged by the diverse array of housing authorities and agencies that are joining us in our movement to ensure that those released from jail and prison, and those whose families live in public housing, are able to return home.”

Oklahoma City Housing Authority will receive up to 12 months of technical assistance to:
1. Safely increase access to housing for people with conviction histories or juvenile records to improve reentry outcomes and reduce recidivism rates.
2. Improve the safety of public housing and surrounding communities through the use of reentry housing strategies.
3. Promote collaboration between public housing authorities, law enforcement agencies, and other criminal justice stakeholders to effectively reduce crime and improve reentry outcomes for people leaving prisons and jails.

Since 2017, the Open Doors to Public Housing Initiative has worked with public housing authorities, community supervision agencies, and reentry service providers to promote family reunification and successful reentry outcomes for formerly incarcerated people. The new sites join a growing cadre of PHAs partnering with Vera to make similar reforms, including: Asheville (NC), New Orleans, New York City, Providence (RI), Springfield (MA), Tacoma (WA), and a state agency in Colorado
About the Oklahoma City Housing Authority
The Oklahoma City Housing Authority (OCHA) provides affordable, decent, safe, and sanitary housing or housing assistance, with quality environments and opportunities to low income people of Oklahoma City. OCHA provides equal housing opportunities to all without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age handicap or familial status. For more information visit www.ochanet.org.

About the Vera Institute of Justice
The Vera Institute of Justice is a justice reform change agent. Vera produces ideas, analysis, and research that inspire change in the systems people rely upon for safety and justice, and works in close partnership with government and civic leaders to implement it. Vera is currently pursuing core priorities of ending the misuse of jails, transforming conditions of confinement, and ensuring that justice systems more effectively serve America’s increasingly diverse communities. More information: www.vera.org
For media inquiries, contact: Poonam Mantha, pmantha@vera.org; 212-376-3133