Reentry Housing Assistance Program
Most individuals sentenced to prison in Washington State are required to provide a reasonable and safe release plan, including a residential address, to the Department of Corrections, which must be investigated and approved before the individual can be released. Some individuals find themselves without release options due to a lack of family or community support, lack of suitable housing options or simply lack of funds to pay for housing. Individuals in this circumstance remain in prison at an average cost of $3,436 per month until a release plan is approved, which can take months or, in some cases, years.
The Reentry Division operates the Housing Assistance Program that provides housing options to incarcerated individuals. This includes financial assistance to individuals who have reached their Earned Release Date (ERD) and will be held in prison because they do not have an approvable release address. The level of service provided by the program is determined by the individual’s situation and specific need. Services may be limited to simple housing referrals or include funding. The Department may provide a maximum benefit of $700 per month for a period up to six months after the initial prison release. The level of service provided remains at the discretion of the Department and is not an entitlement. To prevent releasing individuals from having direct access to the funds, payments are made directly to housing providers on behalf of releasing individual.
The Department of Corrections’ mission statement is to improve public safety; the Department hopes to achieve this goal through our vision statement to work together for safe communities. Providing referrals to safe and responsibly managed transitional housing resources in the community is in the best interest of both the formerly incarcerated individual and the community. To encourage best practices and sound transitional program development the department has worked with government and non-government stakeholders to develop guidelines and recommendations for prospective and existing transitional housing providers.
A study conducted by Washington State University (pdf) found that individuals who receive housing vouchers commit fewer and less–violent crimes than individuals who do not, and the cost savings to the community, the Department of Corrections and the entire criminal justice system are more than double what was projected.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
1. Why was the Housing Voucher Program created?
In 2009, the legislature passed SB 5525 and established the Earned Release Date (ERD) Housing Voucher. This program was intended to provide individuals who are at or beyond their ERD and cannot secure a release address without financial assistance. Since its inception the program has expanded to include different types of Housing Vouchers:
Earned Release Date Vouchers: RCW 9.94A.729: This is the original voucher started in 2009. As previously stated, it is intended to be provided to individuals who are at or beyond their ERD and cannot secure a release address without financial assistance.
Resentencing Vouchers: Due to the Blake Decision, a budget proviso allowed the department to provide housing vouchers to individuals impacted by the Blake decision. The proviso was updated for this upcoming fiscal year, starting on July 1st, which allows the Department to provide housing vouchers to individuals ordered release due to all sentencing changes, including but not limited to the Blake decision.
Reentry Vouchers: RCW 72.02.100: In 2022, HB 1818 allowed DOC to provide housing vouchers for persons at risk of releasing homeless or becoming homeless without assistance while considering risk to reoffend. This included individuals releasing without supervision.
Graduated Reentry Program: RCW 9.94A.733: Outlines criteria for GRE participation and includes the provision that DOC may issue a rental voucher if an approved address cannot be obtained without the assistance of a voucher prior to transfer to home detention.
Community Parenting Alternative/Family Offender Sentencing Alternative Programs: RCW 9.94A.6551: Outlines criteria for CPA participation and includes the requirement that all individuals on home detention must provide an approved residence and living arrangement prior to transfer to home detention.
2. What are the types of transitional houses the department uses?
They are a housing resource that provides people with a chance for housing. It is not DOC Housing. We have various types of housing vendors to include non-profit agencies, private landlords, and clean and sober housing like Oxford. The housing types range from shared residential homes, apartments, converted motels, and even tiny homes.
3. How does a Regional Housing Specialist (RHS) vet a vendor?
It starts with a conversation between the RHS and the prospective vendor about the program and seeks to answer questions such as the vendor’s intended use, the vendor’s housing requirements, and any restrictions for participation the vendor may have.
4. Does the Regional Housing Specialist assess the transitional housing?
RHS conducts a preliminary assessment of the proposed property and neighborhood. This generally includes a walk-thru of the proposed housing, plus familiarization of the area/neighborhood. On multiple occasions, our vetting process has stopped at this point due to community safety concerns for example, and no further action is taken except to notify the vendor the process will not move forward.
5. Does the Department do contracts with the Transitional House Vendors?
No, there are no contracts with the vendors. They go through a vendor orientation with the Regional Housing Specialist.
6. What is ESB 5105?
5105 Notification notifies local governments when DOC has received a request by a housing vendor to include non-profit agencies, private landlords, to be listed as a transitional housing provider for three or more tenants receiving funding from the Earned Release Date (ERD) Housing Voucher Program per dwelling unit. DOC is only asking if we can list the house as an option for three or more receiving a voucher at a time in the house.
7. What does the Regional Housing Specialist (RHS) do with the Community Impact Statement?
Once all the information is gathered by the RHS, to include feedback provided by the local jurisdiction, the housing program administrator will decide if the housing is acceptable or not for department use. By law, a second notice is emailed to the local jurisdiction regarding the outcome of our findings. At that point, the local jurisdiction is provided with another prescribed time to submit their response. Responses received within that period will be considered before any final listing determination is made by the housing program administrator.
8. Is it a guarantee that department will place individuals in the transitional houses?
Just because a housing vendor is placed in our housing directory, it does not guarantee that an individual will be released there. Incarcerated individuals releasing from prison are managed by the Community Corrections Division. It is the local community corrections office that determines if a specific release plan to a housing vendor is appropriate based on their own independent transition release investigation. Not all residents are under the supervision of the department. Vendors often take other community members who are in recovery and need stable and supportive housing.
9. If issues arise at a transitional house how does DOC handle these?
The Department will talk with the individual, vendor, and DOC Field Staff about the reported issue to gather all the facts. The Reentry Housing Specialist will go and do a home visit and investigate the issue. If there is an issue, they will work on a solution with the vendors to remedy them by giving a timeline and they can be placed on pause for use. If the issues are not remedied, they will be removed from the statewide list.
The Department will provide referrals and, if necessary, financial assistance to the releasing individuals for transitional housing. The Department will also provide individuals with information about transitional housing programs to include their requirements, restrictions and range of services provided to help them make an educated decision on which facility or program would best meet their needs.
Transitional housing is legally operated, safe, sustainably priced housing that has been vetted by Department of Corrections’ staff and the local jurisdiction. It is not intended to be permanent housing but rather to serve as a place to live while an individual reestablishes themselves in the community.
The Department of Corrections works with housing providers of all types, ranging from basic efficiency apartment buildings to organizations that provide group or family–oriented housing coupled with intensive programming and case management for high–needs clients. Because a wide variety of people release from prison, a wide variety of housing options are needed with different levels of service. Most of the transitional housing providers the agency works with have provided this service to the public for years and, in some cases, decades. These organizations and facilities serve the general public and exist independently of the Department of Corrections or associated funding. The Department does not enter into contracts or rental agreement with housing providers.
Some providers receive client referrals directly and conduct their own evaluations while others have requested referrals be provided after a case evaluation and screening process assisted by Department staff. Housing referrals are available to assist releasing individuals at any stage of their transition or supervision period, or even after their supervision has ended. Housing resource referrals are made available from the applicable Regional Housing Specialist.
Below are DOC policies that apply to the Reentry Housing Assistance Program.
- DOC Policy 350.200 Transition and Release (pdf)
Below are DOC forms that apply to Reentry Housing Assistance Program.
Laws & Regulations
Below are State Laws (RCWs) and regulations (WACs) that apply to the Reentry Housing Assistance Program.
Revised Code of Washington (RCW)
- RCW 72.02.100 - Reentry Vouchers
- RCW 72.09.285 - Rental Voucher List - Housing Providers
- RCW 9.94A.729 - Earned Release Time - Risk Assessments
- RCW 9.94A.733 - Graduated Reentry Program
- RCW 9.94A.6551 - Community Parenting Alternative/Family Offender Sentencing Alternative Programs
Washington Administrative Code (WAC)
Below are Department of Corrections (DOC) publications that apply to the Reentry Housing Assistance Program.
- Reentry Housing Assistance Program Brochure (pdf) 400-BR012
- Transitional Housing Provider Orientation Packet (pdf) 400-HA017
- Landlord ⁄ Tenant Rights (pdf)
- U.S. Department of Justice: Group Homes, Local Land Use and the Fair Housing Act
- Removing Release Impediments and Reducing Correctional Costs: Evaluation of Washington State’s Housing Voucher Program (pdf)