Soaring Nashville Housing Market Leaves Crisis for Women with Criminal Record
For homeowners in Nashville, Tennessee, the current housing market offers an incredible return on their investment. For mothers in Nashville who placed a child with Jonah’s Journey while they completed a prison sentence, the market offers a major barrier to creating a stable life with their child.
In 2017, Zillow ranked Nashville as the #1 housing market in the U.S. and as having the third highest increase in home appreciation in the nation’s largest markets. The increase in home value has left affordable homes hard to find. For instance, the average rent for a two bedroom apartment soared to $1450 in April 2018, a 65% increase since 2011. Thirty percent of Nashville residents have a household income of $35,000 per year, and 45% of those living in poverty are single mothers with children under 5 years old.
In addition to facing low availability of rental properties, mothers who place their child with Jonah’s Journey may also face difficulty securing a property with landlords. Fair housing standards prevent landlords from discriminating against renters because of their race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status and disability. However, criminal background is not a protected class and many landlords and other tenants simply don’t want people with a criminal record living next door.
Statistics show that if a person finds work and housing shortly after being released from prison, the recidivism rate decreases significantly. Stability and support is key to stopping the cycle of repeat offenders.
The Jonah’s Journey mission centers around caring for the infants of women who are incarcerated. For most of those infants, their best interest is served by having a healthy, stable mother who can support herself after she’s released from prison.
Caregivers begin planning for reunification shortly after a baby is placed in their care. Initial discussions revolve around what resources and support systems the mother will need once she is released. As the release date draws near, they will often assist her in applying for transitional housing and searching for job opportunities.
Even with help from caregivers, finding housing is difficult in the current market. As Jonah’s Journey continues to talk about the need for caregivers to foster infants whose mothers are incarcerated, we also talk about the end-goal of reunification to give mothers and babies a fresh start.
As a Jonah’s Journey supporter, you can help by sharing information about our program with your church, community groups and work places. We need businesses willing to offer jobs to women with a criminal record and little employment background, and landlords willing to rent to women desperate to change their lives.
The reward for being part of this ministry might just be seeing the story change for an entire family and ultimately, helping to stop the generational cycle of incarceration.