Individuals exiting the criminal justice system face unique barriers to finding affordable housing. A new Housing Authority of Cook County pilot program is addressing these challenges by giving Housing Choice Vouchers to 25 graduates of the Cook County Drug Court Program.
In a Marketplace radio interview that aired last month, Cook County Judge Charles Burns explains how he invited HACC Executive Director Richard Monocchio to a drug court graduation, which highlighted the difficulties these graduates face when looking for affordable housing. Monocchio was immediately supportive of the idea of helping to house these graduates, saying, “I was a convert on day one because we have a very scarce resource here in housing assistance. Here you had people who really need it and if they get it are very likely to succeed. So marrying those two concepts made a lot of sense.”
In a joint op-ed for the Chicago Tribune, Burns and Monocchio emphasize the foundational importance of housing for the formerly incarcerated. "The statistics surrounding affordable housing barriers point to a glaring gap that currently exists in our public policy regarding re-entry," they write. "If we are to expect the formerly incarcerated to successfully reintegrate, we must ensure that these individuals are set up with the resources necessary to achieve that goal. Access to affordable housing is the piece we are missing. Doing so will not only benefit the people we serve, but Cook County as a whole. Justice should not only be restorative, justice should also be progressive."