January 26, 2024

Corrections Ministries / Deacon John Cord

Affording housing is a challenge for many re-entering society

Deacon John CordThe single largest issue that interferes with people successfully re-entering society after release from jails and prisons is the lack of affordable and safe housing.

There are many organizations providing services to those re-entering. However, none have solved the dilemma of housing. This is the exact issue we have in trying to reduce homelessness.

The affordable housing shortage is a nationwide problem. However, Indiana stands out in a negative way in a few categories.

Indiana is in the top five in the nation for evictions. We are also in the top five for housing owned by out-of-state corporations.

These two issues are directly related. Indiana has very lax laws about eviction. The laws in Indiana are very much in the favor of the landlord. Tenants have very few rights in Indiana.

This lack of protection attracts many large companies who profit by evicting people. The corporate landlords charge a security deposit and the first and last month’s rent when a person signs their contract. Then, after a relatively short time, they evict the tenants, with little or no cause. They then keep the security deposit and the first and last month’s rent.

They list the house or apartment for rent. They charge people a fee of $40 to $75 to file an application for the unit. However, they decline the first several applications. They keep the filing fees. This process creates huge profits for the corporate landlords. There are no laws in Indiana to stop this practice.

In addition, the rents that are charged are usually very high. The definition of a person in housing poverty is when they must spend more than 30% of their income on housing. More than 50% of Hoosiers fall into this category. People coming out of prison or homeless shelters do not earn the best pay. So, they are at a huge disadvantage in the current housing market. Add an eviction to this, and the pain is even greater. Many landlords are reluctant to rent to a person who has an eviction on their record.

Another issue facing most communities in Indiana is the laws that do not allow for low-income housing to be constructed. Cities want to plan for beautiful large yards with lots of off-street parking.

The problem with this is that it then becomes very expensive to build a low-cost home or apartment on a large lot. Contractors cannot make a profit in this situation. Cities complain that they do not want low-income housing because it could be an eyesore. However, we end up with more homelessness and higher crime rates when people are unhoused.

There are cities in the U.S., such as Spokane Wash., that have made huge strides in providing homes that people in poverty can afford. We need to appeal to our city councils and state legislators. The housing laws in Indiana are outdated and are creating more homelessness and adding to our crime situations.

(Deacon John Cord is the coordinator of Corrections Ministry for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. For more information on supporting the office’s re-entry ministry, contact Deacon Cord at 317-432-6604 or e-mail jcord@archindy.org.)

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