Kelvin A. Jeremiah, PHA president/CEO, along with its board of commissioners, expand Second Chance Voucher program for ex-offenders on federal probation who complete STAR Reentry program (Philadelphia Tribune photo by Abdul R. Sulayman).
By Stephen Williams
PHILADELPHIA — The federal probation office in the eastern district of Pennsylvania has a reentry court program called Supervision to Aid Reentry (STAR) for former offenders on probation, seeking to make a successful and productive return to society.
The STAR program provides intensive supervision and helps these returning citizens with education, training, employment and other services. In partnership with the city’s housing agency, those who successfully complete the program are eligible for Second Chance Vouchers that will pay for a rental apartment for up to two years.
Kelvin A. Jeremiah, the PHA’s president and CEO, said the program, which started in 2015, has been so successful that he and the PHA Board of Commissioners, decided to expand it. Under the new agreement between PHA and the U.S. Probation Office, the agency will increase the number of vouchers to 30, from 20. The agreement will continue through November 2025, with an option to extend to 2027.
The Second Chance Voucher program is one of a number of innovative programs by PHA, under the leadership of Jeremiah that has made the news lately, including a partnership with Community College of Philadelphia, that provides low cost housing options for students at the school, who are in need.
“We began the program with 10 vouchers in 2015, and so far, 20 returning citizens have successfully used the program to find homes and get their lives back on track,” Jeremiah said.
“Not a single voucher holder has fallen out of compliance with PHA during their time in the program. I believe those outcomes are a testament to the impact that stable, affordable housing can make on a person’s life,” he continued. “It is a privilege for PHA to assist these individuals in their transition toward self-sufficiency. I want to thank USPO for their partnership on this initiative.”
According to the U.S. Probation Office, each week up to 20 participants in the STAR program appear before a federal judge as a group, to report on their progress. If necessary they will have sanctions imposed on them.
But after completing 52 weeks in the STAR program, participants are eligible for a reduction of their supervised release by a period of up to one year. PHA’s voucher program offers an incentive to individuals on supervised release who are part of the STAR program. Participation in the voucher program leads to greater stability and successful reentry. In addition, the participants are required to enroll in a financial literacy program and PHA’s Housing Opportunity Program, to help them find a more permanent place to live.
The U.S. Probation Office has a mission to help the reentry of individuals on supervision into society. It maintains a pool of prospective participants eager to join the program and has the necessary staff to manage the increased numbers. The STAR program provides comprehensive, collaborative oversight by judges and federal prosecutors, probation officers, reentry coordinators and defense attorneys.
The STAR program, grew out of the Second Chance for Ex-Offenders Act of 2009. To be eligible, returning citizens must remain in good standing with the STAR program. If after two years, an individual has not made sufficient progress to afford housing on their own, PHA has the discretion, based on circumstances, to help the person move into public housing or into the voucher program.
Stephen Williams is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.
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