Missoula County is developing a pilot program to help former prisoners find housing.
No small task in a community with a notoriously tight and expensive rental market.
Securing affordable housing in Missoula is challenging even under the best of circumstances.
“They do want to get a job. They do want to find medical care and get their kids in school,” County grants administrator Erin Kautz says.
Kautz says people recently out of prison have lots of motivation to find stable housing.
“Once you get people into housing, all the rest will follow,” she says.
But that can be tough.
According to the Missoula Organization of Realtors, the rental market had a three percent vacancy rate in 2017, and the median sales price of a home is nearly $270,000.
Missoula County is developing a pilot project with the District XI Human Resource Council to find rental housing for about 75 people who are returning from incarceration. All will be supervised by the Montana Department of Corrections.
Kautz says studies show that secure housing for people returning from incarceration helps decrease the likelihood of recidivism.
A similar program in Pennsylvania’s Union County resulted in a 22 percent drop in the recidivism rate.
“And that was compared to the county’s recidivism rate of 53 percent and the statewide recidivism rate of 60 percent,” Kautz says.
Missoula has the state’s second-highest homeless population and the second highest number of people under Corrections supervision in Montana.
The Supportive Housing pilot program will be available to supervised felony and repeat misdemeanor offenders.
“They’re not listed as a violent or sexual offender and they’re going to remain under Department of Corrections supervision for at least 3-months from the time the assistance is granted,” Kautz says.
The program is funded through a $153,000 grant from the Montana Board of Crime Control.
The Missoula project is hiring for two positions. One will help connect participants to housing, services and rental assistance programs. The other will work directly with property managers and landlords.
Yellowstone and Ravalli Counties also received funding for similar programs.