By Niru Turko
Acting Director, Community Initiatives
Women leaving prison are at a high risk of homelessness. Finding a place to live right after release and getting support in making the adjustment can mean the difference between successfully transitioning to community life and ending up in situations that can lead back to incarceration. That’s why EFry was pleased to partner with the Ministry for Social Development and Social Innovation, Ministry of Justice, BC Housing, Community Living BC, provincial and local health authorities, and another community housing provider to bring the Integrated Offender Management Program and Homelessness Intervention Project – also known as IOM/HIP – to life. After a successful two-year pilot at the Alouette Correctional Centre for Women, the program became a permanent offering at institutions around the province this May.
IOM/HIP merges the concepts from two pre-existing programs. The Integrated Offender Management Program helped chronic offenders who suffer from mental illness, addiction and other challenges to address their issues in the hope of reducing the likelihood they would commit future crimes. The Homelessness Intervention Project assists people living in the community who struggle with long term or repeat homeless to find housing. When combined, IOM/HIP helped address many of the factors that led to repeat offending in one program.
Just how much of a difference did IOM/HIP make in women’s lives? The help it offered women in finding housing while they were in prison so they had somewhere to go upon release resulted in a huge drop in the rate of women re-offending. The usual re-offence rate can be as high as 61 per cent. For IOM/HIP participants, it dropped to 35 per cent. It was because of such positive outcomes for women, and the community at large through reduced crime, that the program was approved to keep going. At EFry, we’re pleased to continue our contribution to enhanced public safety through our ongoing partnership with IOM/HIP. We provide a homeless outreach worker, who helps reduce homelessness among released women by helping them access stable housing, financial support such as welfare, health services, employment and community supports.
This innovative program is an example of how government, the not-for-profit sector and the community can work together to reduce risks for vulnerable people and help prevent crime simply by providing access to the necessities of life – housing, nutrition, health services, income security and support. EFry’s homeless outreach worker collaborates with other service providers to develop a personalized case plan for each woman to help reduce the likelihood of future involvement in the criminal justice system by addressing risk factors like substance use, brain injuries, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and reduced independent living skills. Women choose to participate in the IOM/HIP program and must be actively engaged in building their positive future. To help plan for long term success in the community, the program works to reduce the challenges these vulnerable women face in re-establishing their lives. The homeless outreach worker ensures that each client receives services for at least six months post release and that she is well connected with personalized supports to maximize her chances for successful community reintegration.