If you have ever experienced incarceration, your chances of homelessness are about ten times higher compared to someone who has never been arrested. One of the biggest reasons for this is because of housing discrimination. Many landlords do not accept a person with felony convictions when they apply for rentals, and a person’s criminal record can also prevent them from being able to finance their own home. As a result, searching for housing as a person with felony convictions can leave you with very few options. Thankfully, we’ve constructed this step-by-step guide to help you find housing as a person with felony convictions.
Understanding Your Situation
First, you need to be realistic about your situation. A landlord can legally deny housing to an individual recently released for a violent conviction, based on the potential risk they may pose to neighbors. That said, you shouldn’t still be facing housing denials after you’ve successfully reintegrated into society, had a stable job for a period of time, and remained crime-free for at least a few years.
You need to be honest about your criminal past, too. Landlords can easily do a background search. If you weren’t honest about a prior conviction, then that gives them a reason to deny housing.
Preparing for the Search
Next, you’ll want to prepare for your search by gathering up all your necessary documents. You’ll want to create a small file that includes:
• A government issued ID
• One other document proving your identity (Birth certificate, Social Security card, etc.)
• Proof of income for the past several months
Another important step you’ll want to take is to prepare your finances. An applicant with a good credit score is going to have a better chance of being approved. Having good credit will prove to your landlord that you’ll be stable when making rent payments. To get a free copy of your credit report and score, you can use services like Equifax, Credit Karma, or AnnualCreditReport.com.
Searching for Housing
You can start your housing search by looking for available, suitable housing units in your area. Try applying for a few to learn whether your recent criminal history is going to lead to denials. If you face resistance, then you can start looking for more friendlier options for formerly incarcerated persons. Consider utilizing resources and advocacy groups, like Prison Fellowship, to identify the best places to try applying for housing as a person with felony convictions.
Depending on how old your felony is and what type of felony you were convicted for, it might also be possible to utilize public housing options.
Applying for Housing
Finally, you’ll want to apply for the housing you choose. As you apply, be honest and upfront if any questions come up about your criminal history. Let your potential landlord know that you’ve learned a lot from your past and don’t plan on repeating those mistakes. Provide all your documentation, and be sure to highlight your positive applicant qualities, like a steady job and good references.
Obtaining affordable and suitable housing as a person with felony convictions is only half the battle! Once you’ve successfully secured a shelter, you’ll want to do your best to maintain your status as a resident. You can do this by staying the course, avoiding any and all criminal vices, and staying up to date with payments.