Housing ex-prisoners ‘is getting harder’

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Kevin Houiellebecq, founder of Freedom For Life Ministries, which supports prisoners and those who have left custody, said finding suitable accommodation for those leaving the criminal justice system is a ‘massive issue’.

Today, he has called upon accommodation providers from guest houses to private rentals to allow someone with a criminal past or on benefits to stay.

‘It is getting harder to find accommodation and guest houses for those leaving prison,’ he said.

‘A lot of guest houses will not provide a room to someone who has been in prison, or on social benefits. Landlords will not take that risk.

‘Trying to find suitable accommodation is incredibly difficult.

‘It’s hugely frustrating when we are trying to find a suitable place for someone to stay when they have left prison and have nothing else.’

Currently many former prisoners end up staying at Sanctuary House, a charity which only supports men, or Shelter Trust, which runs four hostels for homeless men and women. Mr Houiellebecq said he is even aware of an ex-prisoner who is currently living in a tent because he has no-where else to go.

He added: ‘The greatest way to reduce the rate of re-offending is to help them get their lives back on track, that includes having a suitable home.

‘I have no doubt that by giving someone the best chance they will succeed. It doesn’t have to be a revolving door back into crime.

‘If there is crime in the Island then there will always be victims of crime, so supporting those who have been through the system and reducing their chances of re-offending is better for everyone.

‘It’s not rocket science to see where money needs to be placed and where support needs to be offered to limit the chances of people re-offending.’

When a person leaves prison they are given a small amount of money to travel from HMP La Moye and to pay for a bed and breakfast if needed.

Mr Houiellebecq, a former probation officer who has worked in a drug rehabilitation centre in England, said there should be some form of independent accommodation other than shelters in Jersey for those who are not able to go anywhere else.

He said: ‘If we really want to tackle the problem there has got to be appropriate accommodation for those who can’t live anywhere else.

‘They are just being left to fend for themselves and it is not good enough.

‘The frustrating thing is seeing people who have nowhere else to go and not knowing how we can help them. We are looking at Jersey in the 21st century and we have all this money and it’s funding all these other things.’

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