Aid organizations flag housing gap for people leaving Saskatchewan jails

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Aid organizations flag housing gap for people leaving Saskatchewan jails
WATCH: Community organizations say people are often released from Saskatchewan jails with inadequate supports, including housing barriers, due to their criminal records – Feb 10, 2021

All six of Alexis Badger’s applications to rent a home in Saskatoon have been rejected. The 24-year-old is incarcerated and in need of a solid foundation for herself and her six-year-old son.

“It’s really hard for me to get a place because of being incarcerated,” Badger told Global News.

“I’ve never had my own home before and I want to prove to people that I’m actually the person I want to be.”

Badger started serving a 20-month sentence at Pine Grove Correctional Centre last year, but now lives in a reintegration unit, which connects inmates to programming and employment.

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The Elizabeth Fry Society of Saskatchewan said the struggle to find housing is common among incarcerated people.

“They don’t necessarily have somewhere safe to go when they’re released,” said integration worker Kayleigh Lafontaine.

She’s calling on Saskatchewan’s ministries of corrections and social services to ensure all inmates have a safe place to live once they get out of jail.

Corrections ministry spokesperson Margherita Vittorelli said correctional case managers help inmates prepare to settle into the community.

“Part of that preparation may include assisting the offender in securing safe and supportive residency, accessing relevant programming, employment networking, and connecting with community supports,” Vittorelli said in an emailed statement.

Lafontaine acknowledged the government’s efforts, but said people are often released with inadequate support. There’s a variety of resources available, she said, but they need to be accessible as soon as people step out of jail.

“That is one of the biggest barriers,” she said.

Mandolyn Gales, a housing support worker at Prairie Harm Reduction in Saskatoon, said she’s seen people released with nowhere to go.

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“If you have a plan set up like two weeks before they’re set to be released, then it’s a little bit easier,” Gales said.

If people don’t find housing within two weeks of their release, they often end up back in corrections, Lafontaine said. Without a safe home, she said people fall into previous destructive behaviours.

Badger said it’s crucial she finds a place to rent in Saskatoon, so she can avoid potential triggers in her home community of Sturgeon Lake.

“I just don’t want to go back into the same old lifestyle that I was in,” said Badger, a former gang member.

Badger is going to school and starts work at a new job on Thursday.

She credits some of her progress to the low-custody reintegration unit where she’s finishing her sentence. Women who live in the 14-bed home are given access to counsellors and parenting programs, Badger said.

Lafontaine hopes the province develops more reintegration units in the future.

“It honestly is one of the best programs that I’ve seen as far as being able to help women get back on their feet because they have a stable place to stay,” she said.

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While Badger hasn’t locked down a place to stay once her sentence wraps in August, she’s confident she’s on track to start a better life.

“I’m going to do what’s good for myself and my son,” she said, “and just keep on keeping on.”

Click to play video: 'Saskatchewan rolling out video calls for inmates after in-person visits cancelled'
Saskatchewan rolling out video calls for inmates after in-person visits cancelled

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