Pro Bono News
From Behind Bars to … the Streets? Bay Area Residents with Records Struggle to Find Housing (CA)
Friday, June 21, 2019
- The Mercury News
From Behind Bars to … the Streets? Bay Area Residents with Records Struggle to Find Housing
"It’s tough for anyone to find housing in the Bay Area, but something in Lee “Taqwaa” Bonner’s past made his search even more difficult: a felony conviction.
Bonner had rent money — when he got out of prison in 2017, two separate nonprofits offered to pay for his housing for a few months. And he had a job driving a forklift lined up. But after getting rejected by multiple landlords because of his record, Bonner did what many parolees do — he moved into his car.
“It’s supposed to be when you leave prison, your punishment stops. Unfortunately, the punishment begins,” said 52-year-old Bonner, who served 30 years for second-degree murder — a crime he still thinks about, and regrets, constantly. In an attempt to atone for what he did, Bonner started a nonprofit outreach program for troubled kids while he was incarcerated. Today, he continues to mentor young people and also works as an advocate for the rights of formerly incarcerated people.
Housing struggles are a reality for many Bay Area residents, but they’re even more acute for the estimated one in five Californians — or 8 million people — with a criminal conviction. Background checks are a standard part of applying for an apartment, and applicants with criminal records often are denied. Experts say that forces many into homelessness and can lead to recidivism. The struggle is amplified in the Bay Area, where high demand for housing and limited supply has led to brutal competition..."