Formerly incarcerated individuals may be unable to secure stable employment and struggle to acquire income; however, opening a small business may offer this population an alternative to the traditional job market. Researchers evaluated the Pathway to Enterprise for Returning Citizens (PERC) program, which offered training in entrepreneurship and other resources to those returning from Illinois prisons to Cook County. Researchers examined delivery of PERC’s entrepreneurship training, experiences of program participants and training staff, program completion among participants, and knowledge gains with information from focus groups, surveys, interviews, and administrative records. Feedback from staff and participants was mostly positive and the program increased entrepreneurship knowledge. However, engaging the 72 returning citizens in the program was a challenge—of all eligible participants, 16 attended the first week of training (22 percent) and only 12 graduated the program (17 percent).
This article offers an overview of state and national homelessness including prevalence and causes of homelessness, criminal justice system contacts with the homeless, and recommendations to address homelessness with a focus on justice-involved populations.