No Place to Call Home
BPI & Roosevelt University: Policy Research Collaborative : 2018
Click here to find out more about the collaboration
For individuals with criminal records, finding a place to live in Chicago can be extremely challenging.
Through interviews with 81 individuals with criminal records, this study shows how the presence of a
criminal record creates barriers for individuals on the private housing rental market regardless of the
individual’s age or the age of the individual’s record.
Participants were asked to sketch on a map where they think they could find a place to live. This
report juxtaposes their answers with information about where they have experienced rental rejection
in the past. The presence of a criminal record can multiply other forms of disadvantage, deepening
racial, class, and gender divides. By discriminating against individuals with criminal records, landlords
not only undermine individuals’ attempts to build stable lives, but also reproduce and multiply large-
scale social inequities.
Nationally, 95% of state prisoners will be released from prison at some point, while an estimated one
in three Americans has a criminal record.
In Chicago alone, approximately 11,000 individuals return
from Illinois prisons each year, so the challenges experienced by people with criminal records are
Moreover, in Illinois, about 48% of individuals released from prison will return within
three years—a figure that reveals the pressing need for improved reentry opportunities and
Housing, in particular, comprises a crucial component of successful reentry—a key
building block that promotes steady employment, fosters mental and physical health, supports
individuals in their recovery from substance abuse, and provides the other advantages of stable
shelter that are vital to basic human wellbeing.
No Place to Call Home proposes policy solutions to help overcome systemic discrimination against
renters with criminal records and mitigate the ripple effects of that discrimination. Through a
combination of reforms, this report proposes a pathway to expand housing access to those with
criminal records in order to make Chicago and other cities more equitable and hospitable places for
all residents to call home. This study was approved by the Roosevelt University Institutional Review
Board: IRB No. 2018-028.
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