Jobs, HUD and the ex-offender

The Department of Housing and Urban Development, (HUD), provides residential properties that have been ‘acquired’ due to foreclosures on a mortgage. A lot of the time, these properties are turned into section-8 housing for those on low incomes, but the question is are felons able to receive housing via the HUD programme?

Well, the good news is that every HUD housing application is looked at own its own merits on a case-by-case basis. This means that a felony record is not necessarily an automatic disqualifier. Most counties, within a given state for instance, will allow a person to apply for section 8 housing, on the condition that a conviction did not happen within the last 5 years.

Additionally, if a rehabilitation program has been attended then more leniency may be shown – again, on a case-by-case basis – and a certificate of compliance was issued.

What, though is section 8? Simply put,the program helps low-income, elderly and disabled tenants pay for housing outside of the public housing system – this includes ex-offenders. How does it work? Each state receives a grant from the federal government. This grant is given every year and is used to cover the costs of housing assistance. States will use a given portion of the funding in order to cover the cost of the Section 8 program.

The money set aside for the section 8 program pays for some of a tenants rent and utilities. The amount of costs covered can vary, but it is usually 70% with the tenant paying the remaining 30% themselves.

Obviously, for an ex-felon trying to rehabilitate and get back on their feet after leaving prison, the HUD and section 8 initiatives can be a huge help.

It is important, however, than an ex-offender be completely upfront with a potential landlord when it comes to informing them of past felony. The last thing anybody wants is to be evicted later on down the road because they tried to deceive a landlord. Being accepted into the HUD program does not mean the checks are over, because landlords will still conduct their own background checks so it really isn’t worth taking the chance.

Navigating the job market as an ex-offender

Of course, securing a home under HUD and section 8 (or any other way) is all well good, but what is an ex-offender to do about securing an income?

Finding work with a felony on your record is always going to be tough, there is no doubt about that, but it is far from impossible. Felon-friendly companies are not exactly in abundance, and it can be a long and difficult process finding companies willing to hire an ex-felon – let alone finding one that is actually hiring at the time you need them to be.

One resource that looks at felon friendly employers is 13 best companies and jobs for felons. Whilst not easy there certainly are jobs for felons out there.

Obviously, none of this is exactly news to an ex-offender because they are dealing with these difficulties on a daily basis.

In fact, this isn’t news for many people – ex-offenders, or not. Employers have always taken a keen interest in the backgrounds of applicants, it’s only natural when you think about it. A cab firm, for instance, probably wouldn’t want to hire somebody convicted for a drink-driving related offence and a bank certainly wouldn’t be interested in hiring an embezzler.

Surveys in the past have shown that roughly 90% of companies in the US will check criminal records databases, when hiring for at least some positions. Some companies will check purely for felony convictions, while others will also take note of misdemeanors and even ‘just’ arrests.

This has raised the issue of discrimination of course, with companies being accused of using these checks to exclude people with criminal records. While there is definitely the opportunity for the system to be abused in this way, proving it can prove difficult. That said, however, there is now a country-wide ‘movement’ to improve an ex-offender’s chances of being treated fairly.

The ‘ban the box’ movement is so-called because of the little checkbox on application forms that ex-offenders are required to mark if they have a felony or misdemeanor conviction. A small victory for the movement has seen several dozen cities and fourteen states pass laws requiring companies to delay background checks until later in the recruitment process.

Background checks like these are controversial for other reasons too, including the exclusion of applicants because of their race. As an example, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commision said, in 2012, that these exclusions based on criminal records were, effectively, discrimination against black men as they were affected by the background check exclusions disproportionately.

Whatever the actual situation of a given applicant, if the declaration box is present on the application form then honesty is still the best policy – regardless of how they may feel about it. Until every city in every state decides to require employers to at least delay the checks, then there is not a great deal that an applicant do, other than comply.