Homelessness forum focuses on return

For Immediate Release:  Oct. 13, 2015

BLOOMSBURG — This year’s housing forum at Bloomsburg University will focus on the challenge surrounding prisoner re-entry into communities after incarceration. The annual forum on homelessness, “The Journey of Returning Citizens,” will be presenting on Thursday, Oct. 22, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Kehr Union.

Many speakers will present sessions throughout the day, including two judges who have extensive experience working with people who make up this community, and a recent BU graduate.

Weston Brehm ’13 works for the Columbia County Housing Authority. He applied to BU at the age of 28, his newborn daughter the catalyst for change. He learned about the opportunity to conduct research during a class taught by Heather Feldhaus, sociology professor. Soon he found a home at BU’s Center for Community Research and Consulting, under the guidance of Feldhaus, who also serves as the center’s director.

At the housing authority, Brehm is responsible for determining financial allocations for rents and utilities for former prisoners and local residents. He also participates in meetings, both on the state and local levels, to help establish best practices and assist in the continuation of the program, Pennsylvania Commission of Crime and Delinquency.

He was the co-author of a grant that funds one of the programs, Justice Master Leasing program, which he will discuss during the homelessness forum. This grant helps to provide housing for individuals who have had an involvement with the justice system, on both local and state levels.

“Communities across America can either continue to pay for the incarceration of individuals after the fact, or they can be proactive, reach out a collective hand and not only help lift someone up, but also teach them how to remain standing,” said Brehm.

Neal Slone, associate professor of criminal justice who is involved in BU’s Center for Community Research and Consulting, is also collaborating with Brehm to provide research assessment on the project.

This forum will explore how housing providers and developers, alongside the justice system, are creating new partnerships to help these vulnerable citizens. More than 100 representatives of agencies and organizations are expected to attend.

Bloomsburg University is one of 14 universities in Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education. The university serves approximately 10,000 students, offering comprehensive programs of study in the colleges of Education, Business, Liberal Arts and Science and Technology.