Imagine you are a young woman who has experienced physical and sexual abuse. You’re a school dropout, you’ve gotten involved in an abusive relationship and use drugs to cope with your early trauma. You learn to survive on the streets. You are arrested for a non-violent offense often associated with your relationship with your man.
When you are released, you have no money, job, education, or place to stay that is safe. If you have a child, that child is probably either in foster care or living with a relative. How do you begin? Where do you start?
Unfortunately, the profile above is not unusual for many justice system impacted women according a report from the Justice Quarterly. Last week, we shared information about the bi-partisan efforts of Congresswoman Karen Bass to pass the “One Stop Shop” bill to help smooth the path for reentry for formerly incarcerated people.
In addition, “Bonnie Boswell Reports” has learned about amazing organizations, like Brilliant Corners in downtown Los Angeles, which are performing the work of angels — putting people on the right track, saving lives and reconnecting families.
In an upcoming episode of “Bonnie Boswell Reports,” you’ll meet a young woman whose probation officer wanted to get her started on the road to a stable life. He introduced her to Brilliant Corners, a housing agency in downtown Los Angeles that provides supportive services to people experiencing homelessness or coming out from institutionalization. Through Brilliant Corners, this young woman was able to find an apartment as her first step forward.
Her caseworker, Morgan Chandler, is the program manager for the “Breaking Barriers” program at Brilliant Corners. Morgan told me, “We know statistically we can reduce recidivism if formerly incarcerated women have a safe and stable housing situation. Then they can work on the things they really want to work on. So housing is key for individuals in our population to make sure they do not go through the cycle of being incarcerated over and over again.”
The “Breaking Barriers” program provides 30% of the cost of housing for the first year. Over time, the participant pays a greater and greater percentage of their own rent with the goal of being totally self-sufficient in 24 months.
“Breaking Barriers” also connects participants with other organizations that can help them get training, personal counseling, employment, education, and legal assistance. The Prison Policy Initiative cites a study showing that poverty itself is the strongest predictor of recidivism among women. Helping women overcome poverty through meaningful support is the surest way to stop the vicious cycle of incarceration.
For more on the story of this remarkable young woman and the people helping her—Watch Bonnie Boswell Reports on KCET, Fridays at 2:58pm before the PBS NewsHour or go to kcet.org/bonnie.