Breaking the cycle of offending in Chelmsford - plans to keep ex-offenders off the streets
By Samantha Dordoy in Chelmsford City Life
Originally published by Chelmsford Liberal Democrats
Accommodation to stop ex-offenders from living on the streets when they are released from prison has been secured for Chelmsford. The Lib Dem-led City Council and two other agencies working in Chelmsford have secured £100,000 for this work.
Prisoners who are released without homes to go to after serving their time can end up sleeping in public places, spiralling quickly into difficulties and - in some cases - falling back into offending.
In Essex, 79% of ex-prisoners who become homeless reoffend within a year of getting out of prison. This drops to 47% when they have somewhere stable to live.
Twenty per cent of all the ex-offenders in Essex supervised by the National Probation Service are in Chelmsford, which is home to a prison and young offender institution for men aged 18 and over. In 2020, approximately 50 offenders were referred to Chelmsford City Council by the prison as being potentially homeless on their release.
A place to turn their lives around
The funding will provide places for ex-offenders to stay with support to help prevent them from reoffending. Housing Dilemmas, an experienced charity which has recently begun working in Chelmsford, will provide and manage the properties, which council and probation officers will refer people to.
Each room comes with assistance from the National Probation Service, who will keep in regular contact with the resident to help them transition back into society and aid them to avoid slipping back into crime. Other organisations will be on hand including those who are involved with Chelmsford's Homelessness Forum to support them with wider support needs such as substance misuse, unemployment or mental health issues.
Cllr Stephen Robinson, Leader of Chelmsford City Council, said, "We have pledged to end rough sleeping in Chelmsford and this means working with all the different groups and addressing the causes.
"The number of offenders leaving prison and becoming homeless hasn't changed at all over the last ten years. Clearly something needs to be done and I think this is it. Not only does it mean a fairer chance for ex-offenders trying to turn their lives around after release, it creates a safer Chelmsford for all by reducing the risk of reoffending."
Sybil Bawuah-Quashie, Founder and CEO of Housing Dilemmas, said, "We are excited to be piloting this project with the City Council and National Probation Services. The need to make housing and support available to ex-offenders when released from prison to give them a fresh start cannot be overemphasised enough, if we want to see to it that their risks of re-offending is minimised."
The first stage of the project will be up and running by Christmas.