JAILS2STREETS – From Housed to Houseless Post-Incarceration: Notes from the Inside WeSearch

Tiny - Posted on 17 February 2021

FRIDAY, FEB 26th 12noon PST- Join us on Zoom to Release these powerFULL findings

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As part of a Poverty Skola-led WeSearch© ,  POOR Magazine's Notes From the Inside which publishes the work of incarcerated poverty skolaz- collaborated with Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC)  to distribute WeSearch Questionaires to 25 prisoners  behind the razor wire kages, while simultaneously,148 post-incarcerated, currently houseless reporters for POOR Magazine's RoofLESS radio, currently residing on the streets in San Francisco, Sacramento and Oakland reported on their current state of houselessness and/or houselessness prior to their incarceration as well as their anticipated status of housing upon their release for currently incarcerated participants. 

We, as Poverty Skolaz, houseless, formerly houseless, incarcerated, disabled, criminalized, indigenous, Black, Brown and poor wite peoples, understand and overstand the direct link (or “revolving door”) between houselessness, race and class based profiling, anti-Blackness and incarceration and the criminalization of the poor. This WeSearch, a word and concept informed by Tiny from the Theory of Poverty Scholarship which is poor people-led research, not academic/othering research, outlines that direct link as politricksters and anti-poor people hate continue to wonder, “How do we get rid of the homeless problem?” while continuing to sweep, profile and criminallize houseless folks like we are trash.

The WeSearch conducted inside the Kages was done n collaboration with IWOC, other collaborators include Prison focus, AztlanPress, KAGE Universal, No Justice Under Capitalism and the San Francisco Bayview 

This JAILS2 STREETS WeSearch is another crucial aspect of POOR Magazine's LandBack demand making the direct connection to land liberation, self-determination for poor, Indigenous Black Brown and DIsabled residents of these colonial -run towns and cities that continue to incarcerate, sweep,  and profile poor people and people of color everyday.

Below is a summary of the WeSearch findings that teases out the patterns in our data as well as the replies from various respondents of the survey:    


Data Summary


  • A majority of the respondents stated that they were not houseless when they went to jail (60% to 40%)
  • Of those who were houseless at the time of arrest however, the average timespan of their houselessness ranged from 3-10 years
  • A majority of the respondents were housing insecure at the time of arrest (56% to 36% with 8% leaving the question blank)
  • 28% of respondents said they would be housing insecure at the time of their release with an additional44% responding “unknown/unsure''
  • 48% of respondents said they would be going into transitional housing upon release with an additional 16% answering “no” and another 36% answering “unsure”
  • 24% of respondents said they had been arrested, cited or swept for being houseless prior to being incarcerated
  • 24% of respondents said their incarceration was directly related to their state of homelessness
  • 52% of respondents said they had lost important belongings in a Po’Lice, sheriff, Caltrans or DPW sweep
  • 100% of post-incarcerated respondents are currently houseless now
  • 92% of respondents claimed their "arrests were related to anti-poor, and/or anti-Black profiling and arrests.

Survey Responses

(WeSearcher’s Note: To remain true to our surveys, responses were transcribed exactly as written in most cases, to include spelling and grammatical “errors”; each bullet represents an individual’s response to the survey question.)

Were you houseless/unhoused/homeless before you went to jail/prison/a cage?

  • No I had my own studio apt (that being said I was only one paycheck from being homeless)—hand to mouth.
  • I was unhoused (transitioning) from state to state (Calif, N.V. AZ). I was seeking employment once I was discharged from parole in 2004.
  • Not really. I always had a place to live up until just prior to my arrest on December 26, 2000. For a few weeks just before my arrest I was living out of my Semi-Truck which was better than being homeless.
  • ½ way house when I parole from solitary confinement. 
  • I was renting a room.
  • Yes, but it was partly my doing. Because of my addictions I left my drug program.
  • No not at all I had a home.
  • No. I was a homeowner. My home was burgled [sic] after my arrest. Later, once I saw how incompetent my assigned public defender was, I sold my home to pay a defense lawyer $50,000, but he was a bad choice, because he himself was in trouble with the law, and he did a very mild defense, and refused to hire an investigator. He failed to object in order to curry favor-judge.
  • No! Sweetly, living with old gal and did my own work and payed rent to her!
  • I had an apartment I could of went and rest, which was my moms place-but I chose to run the streets everyday with a backpack, my tool of protection, rounds and a set of clothes and cosmetics.
  • Yes, I was homeless, but I had a job and a vehicle, and a few financial obligations. I bought my own clothes, and mostly fed myself. My pay wasn’t quite enough to get into a place, and keep it, and keep what I already had, too. So I slept at a shelter, and showered and had dinner there while I[illegible] getting my pay built up enough to get into a place to live, and have a real address.
  • Yes! I was in and out of motels hustling before I came to prison this time, due to me losing my apartment before I was locked up this time.
  • Yes I was couchsurfing.
  • Yes, I was homeless on parole and married to my wife with 2 step daughters.
  • Yes I was.
  • No I wasn’t homeless, but my home life was far from stable, so there was no guarantee that I would be living there for long.

If so, how long?

  • I was transitioning for 3 yrs. (2004-2007) I was captured in 2007, March 20, ....
  • Only periodically by choice.
  • 4 or 5 weeks.
  • I kept renting rooms for about a year.
  • 3 years
  • One year
  • 1 year
  • Age 9-15
  • I was chronically homeless for about ten years. I was on parole when I got my last job, as a painter/welder/utility guy, at a welding shio[sic], I had that job for 6 years, exactly; from 05/02/2000 to 05/01/2006. My pay started at $9.00 hr. By the time I was arrested, it was $18.50 hr.
  • My whole life (I came to prison when I was 18), my home life was unstable, most of the time I’ve had to live with relatives.
  • A year prior to my incarceration. 
  • 2008 till now
  • Months
  • I was homeless 4 months.

Were you housing insecure (couch-surfing, subletting, staying with family who you didn’t feel safe or who didn’t want you there)?

  • All of the above
  • I couched-surfed for along while, I was doing what I can to keep a roof over my head and clothes on my back, and food in my stomach...
  • Staying with family off/on
  • I did stay with family sometimes and I would move on whenever I felt unwelcome.
  • Yes!
  • Yes, after leaving the “program” I went to my sisters. Once there her “boyfriend” felt intimidated by my presence.
  • Still a couch-surfing and parole hearing May 5th, 2020! Forced, innocent in prisons by crooked courts and all!
  • SRO
  • Couch-surfing and just sleeping on the stairs of laundry rooms of apartments of friends that lived in the complexes.
  • I had family I could go to if need be, but I like being on my own.
  • Couch-surfing with wife and kids
  • All of the above!! Plus me and my fiance were denied housing due to our past crimes: drug sales and buglary.
  • Yes, this was my whole living situation.

Are you going into a program when you get out that includes housing but then after that you don’t have housing?

  • Yes. Currently seeking options do you have any?
  • Maybe. I’m not sure.
  • I am planning on the Delaney Street Foundation as an alternative housing situation if needed...
  • I don’t know. Perhaps
  • Yes and no respectively to each part of that question.
  • I will look for before parole hearing transitional housing After that I will get my own place to live.
  • Yes=I was set up and frame on a non-violent case return back to solitary confinement.
  • I will go to a program that includes housing until I can get a job and my own place.
  • I don’t know what I’m going to be doing
  • I will search for such a program.
  • Unknown
  • Yes!
  • Possibly
  • I honestly don’t know--I have family but I don’t own property.
  • I do plan on entering a “transitional housing” program upon my release, mainly because I have been in prison well over half my life, and I believe that period of transition will better acclimate me back into society with the proper tools and acclimated mind state than I would if going straight into society without this particular structured program.
  • I’d like to go into a program but housing [illegible] is no guarantee.
  • Yes! And I believe I’ll have enough money to get my own housing after I’ve been in transitional housing for awhile.
  • Yes. I have bad credit and [a] record.

Did you ever get arrested, cited, swept for being houseless before you were incarcerated, arrested, caged? If so, how many citations/how “much” did you owe for these citations?

  • Most of my arrests were because I was houselss addicted immature and short sighted.
  • I was arrested (2) times with no citations...each time I was sent to prison. 2005-2006, 2007-present...
  • Yes, I received my first conviction age 13 for burglary when I escaped a “boys ranch” and foraged for food & necessities.
  • 2011 Parole. Re-incarceration under racism, draconian non-violent offense.
  • Yes I have, but it was more harassment than anything else.
  • Yeah...loitering...too many times as a youth got tooken and placed in a cage!
  • Once I was chased out of a house accused of being a squatter although I paid rent!

Did you ever lose important belongings in a PoLice, sheriff, Caltrans or DPW sweep?

  • Everything
  • Yes, I’ve lost my transportation, clothes, IO social soc. card, birth certificate, savings (money), jewelry.
  • Yes, several times.
  • Yes lost hand bag, ear rings, cars, money rings, personal loss of time & [illegible]
  • I lost one jacket cost $1,000 and much, much more upon my arrest! Period!
  • Yes, the L.A. sherrifs as is their custom arrested me for a bike I owned and recovered after reporting it stolen. I was shown as the reporter and produced a receipt for the bike while in jail, they then never returned my bike after released on my own recognizance.
  • Yes...I’ve lost $, address books, phones, contacts, birth certificates, medical stuff, car, weapons
  • Yes! I’ve had cars confiscated in the past.
  • Yes. My laptop, documents and social security card.
  • On a couple occasions. Due to being forced to move out or go to jail right then!
  • No, but my constantly unstable housing situation never really allowed me to accumulate personal possessions. So I had very little of anything when I came to prison.

What is your dream/vision for housing/land acquisition? 

  • Somewhere clean, with a community of liked minded citizens that care about each other.
  • I plan to work, go to school, seek employment and eventually become a homeowner like I was when arrested 23 ½ years ago. 
  • No one should be homeless in this country. Our leaders are an embarrassment. Their needs to be certain housing for homeless and low income. Period.
  • My vision now is to pursue a career in non-profit organization for youth homeless or single parents. Mentoring youth to follow they passions and help guide them to meet that goal/dream. 
  • I dream & envision housing as a basic human right, I want to “free the land” from private or state ownership, build community land trusts, build squatters rights for vacant house takeovers, etc.
  • One of those mini-homes. Or maybe a sailboat I can anchor in a bay someplace. Or just my own small apartment.
  • I want to buy my own home. I know its possible I just have to work hard and save as much as I can. 
  • I kinda...well did grow up in the system since the age of 12 yrs old. So beyond being/feeling institutionalized I had no knowledge or experience as to how to get on my feet to be able to get my own place. I feel revived and sure that I am ready to obtain some sort of employment to root myself into society. I’m done with making poor decisions that land me in prison. At some point us as men must accept accountability.
  • To own my property, land & shelter.
  • Realistically speaking there is no affordable housing in California; unless it’s a recreational vehicle, mobile home, or van. Outside of California the possibility of home ownership is more achievable for the proletarian masses. 
  • Maybe go to my sister or my son’s home when I get out of prison.
  • My dream is to find my cellie lover on C file & other importance in my parole & cell living money powers respect, work, update, personal space and respect errand in prison, my life what I become and who I am the person I love and BE FOREVER Thank you! 
  • Through the courts and prisons. America is a sick society these days. I am sad to say I didn’t realize what it actually is until late in my life.
  • I’m an ex-capitalist. At this point in life, the only thing I want is the greatest space I can get between me and Gog & Magog. The enchanted melting pot is long dead for me.
  • Get SSI, get help from available resources. Start out in a low rent place; move up, when I can. I could be fine in a one or two bedroom apartment. If two bedrooms: I sleep in one; the other is my art studio/office. With my SSI, a part time job, veterans comp, art sales, and an AARP card,I should do alright for myself. No delusions of living in a crystal palace on a mountain top that overlooks the sea.  
  • My dream vision is to own my own home within 2 years of my release through hard work and proper planning to achieve that goal. I would like a 4 bedroom with a pool, a big back yard, back deck and entertainment room, big kitchen, two car garage.
  • I’d love to become financially able to move into a modest home and invest in it once released.
  • Low income housing or section 8.
  • If I can stay out long enough, go back to my reservation in Round Valley, California. I have a roll number.
  • I believe all people oppressed in our 99% class should have housing, a car, and a job that pays enough to live on and raise a family.

(Question just for post-incarcerated reposndents:

What housing opportunities were you offerred when you were released

78%  - None

22%: Some - but were very limited  

3% housing that was unihabitable 

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