Updated November 2022
What happens to someone who has served time in prison and gets released back into the community? How do they find a job and a place to live? Who can they turn to for support to get their life back on track and start building a better future for themselves?
In many cases, ex-offenders find that support at a halfway house. Like the name suggests, a halfway house is a bridge between prison and the outside world—a place that is "halfway" between incarceration and the free community.
This is where eligible, previously incarcerated people prepare to rejoin their communities. Community services workers play an important role in running halfway houses and ensuring residents get the help they need to safely re-enter society.
Would working at a halfway house be a good fit for you after community services worker training?
Read on to learn about the services you could help provide at a halfway house—and how these places truly make our communities healthier, safer places for all.
What Kind of Support is Offered at a Halfway House?
Adjusting to life after prison is hard for so many reasons. Some people in this situation have nowhere to go once they're released, and finding employment with a criminal record is obviously very challenging.
Without a job, how can someone who has just been released from jail get an apartment? How will they buy food? Where will they find work?
The purpose of our criminal justice system is to rehabilitate people who have broken the law and served a jail sentence. The goal is to have these individuals re-enter society as productive, law-abiding citizens. They need a second chance to make better choices.
But the deck is stacked against ex-offenders. There is a powerful stigma against people who have been convicted of a crime and spent time in jail. Those who don't get enough support during the transition from prison back to the community often end up committing new crimes (usually out of desperation) and get sent back to jail.
Halfway houses have been proven to lower rates of recidivism (committing new crimes) among newly released offenders. This is a major positive for our society, since keeping people in jail costs a tremendous amount of taxpayer money. And at the end of the day, many newly released people truly deserve a second chance.
What kind of support do halfway houses provide to help these people get back on their feet? Services are usually grouped into three main categories:
- Help finding a place to live
Halfway houses provide safe shelter for eligible people who have served their prison sentence or been released on parole. The goal is to help residents find their own place to live and gradually transition out of the halfway house. As a community services worker (CSW), you could work closely with residents, local renters, and the city to secure safe and affordable housing.
- Addiction counselling
Most halfway houses offer an addiction services program to deal with the common problem of drug, alcohol, and gambling addiction among new residents. These programs combine counselling, crisis intervention, and a structured treatment plan residents must follow if they want to remain in the halfway house (treatment plans are often a condition of parole).
- Education and employment programs
Education and employment services are key to helping convicted offenders transition successfully back into their communities. Community services worker training teaches students how to deliver these programs, which often include life skills coaching, job search support, mental health services, and motivational counselling.
Are Halfway Houses Safe?
There's a common myth that halfway houses are dangerous places to work and live. Many people believe that halfway houses drag down neighbourhood property values and make a community undesirable to new buyers.
None of this is actually true. First of all, halfway houses do what is called a "risk assessment" when evaluating new residents. Not every offender is allowed into the program. The halfway house team looks at each person's criminal history, how they behaved while in prison, and whether they have changed for the better while incarcerated.
Plus, every resident has to follow strict rules while staying at the halfway house. If these rules are broken, the resident can be sent back to prison.
In the end, by offering previous offenders a way to smoothly transition back into society, halfway houses actually make our communities much safer. And six major studies have proven that halfway houses do not drive down property values in local neighbourhoods.
The halfway house system showcases how important community services are for the welfare and safety of everyone in our society.
Helping deserving people get a second chance, and build lives they can be proud of, is what working as a CSW is all about. The job is demanding, but if you're passionate about helping others, and want to make our communities better places to live, you'll find it's an incredibly rewarding career.
Learning More About Community Services Worker Training: Your Next Steps
Feel inspired to learn more about becoming a community services worker? Wondering about your CSW training options in the Ottawa area?
Have a look at the 12-month Community Services Worker program offered by Herzing College Ottawa. It provides thorough training in family dynamics, addictions, mental health disorders, counselling and interviewing techniques, report writing, and more.
An admission advisor can answer any questions you have about what's taught in class, where you can work after graduation, and what's involved in applying. Our advisors are experts in matching people with training programs—we're here to help you find the best diploma for your needs and goals.
Click below to get complete program details or chat live with an advisor. We're here to help!