Toward Understanding Homelessness: The 2007 National Symposium on Homelessness Research. Incarceration and Homelessness. Conclusion


This paper has largely focused on presenting what is known about the nexus between homelessness and incarceration, and the approaches that have been developed to address these two interrelated phenomena. While awareness, knowledge, and response to this relationship have progressed substantially over the past decade, they are in many respects still in their initial stages. And while focusing on specifics, as is largely done in this paper, it is also important not to lose focus on the fact that incarceration and homelessness interact in a context where, on one hand, millions of persons cycle through jails and prisons each year and face uncertain and tenuous prospects upon reentering the community and, on the other hand, the number of persons who experience homelessness each year also ranges into the millions. Ultimately, the answer to ameliorating the nexus described here is for conditions to change so that the overall rates of incarceration and homelessness decrease. In the absence of this, however, understanding and responding to the special challenges presented by this nexus is necessary for the benefits of both the people caught in its clutches as well as for the larger communities who ultimately must offer a means to reincorporate into its fabric those who have experienced homelessness and incarceration.

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