Ex-offenders may face challenges with housing, employment, education, medical and dental needs, and basic living expenses. Several organizations and programs are available to assist ex-offenders in Oregon through these transitions. Grants, scholarships and state benefits can help ex-offenders get back on their feet.
Subsidized Housing Grants
Oregon offers several housing grant options to ex-offenders. The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program allows ex-offenders to choose their housing and pay a portion of their income as rent. The vouchers pay the remainder of the rent to the landlord. Subsidized housing is also available in Oregon. Ex-offenders may rent units in subsidized housing units, which are listed on the HUD website, and pay a portion of their income as rent while the subsidy covers the remaining rent. Applications for housing grants may be submitted through local Public Housing Authorities (PHA), which are also listed on the HUD website. Ex-offenders must be subject to a criminal background check to apply for these programs, but all are eligible for this assistance except for two categories of ex-offenders. PHAs do not accept ex-offenders who were convicted of manufacturing methamphetamines or who are sex offenders subject to lifetime registration with the sex offender registry.
Medical and Food Grants
Oregon offers state medical benefits to ex-offenders through the Oregon Health Plan (OHP). OHP Standard offers free or low-cost medical care to low-income Oregon residents who do not qualify for Medicaid. Oregon also runs a Medicaid program, which has additional requirements beyond being low-income. Certain groups categorically receive Medicaid, such as the elderly, children and the disabled. Others will have their eligibility calculated by Department of Human Services (DHS) workers based on factors such as family income and age. Optional eligibility may be granted to individuals receiving state welfare program grants as their only income or "medically needy" persons. Ex-offenders can also receive state food grants through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the food stamp program. Applicants can apply for both of these programs at local DHS offices. An online directory of DHS offices in Oregon is available at the DHS website.
Transition Resources and Ex-Offender Advocacy
The Partnership for Safety and Justice is an organization that advocates for the rights of ex-offenders. They have published an Oregon Transition Resource Guide, which is full of resources for ex-offenders in Oregon. This guide includes job referral assistance in addition to referrals for rental, child care and housing assistance. The guide also includes resource hotlines, a list of organizations and groups offering assistance through transitional periods, group housing resources, educational opportunities, medical and dental services, and legal aid services. One of the resources in this guide is Community Action in Washington County, Oregon. This organization has links to community action programs and services such as energy assistance grants, emergency rental assistance and homelessness services.
The University of Oregon (UO) runs a Nontraditional Students Program (NTSP) offering four-year college degrees to students who do not fit into traditional student profiles, such as, according to the UO website, students over 24 years of age, or with children to support. Other categories include students returning to or starting college after a break, students changing careers and students with low-income qualifications. The NTSP has several scholarships specifically for re-entry students in its program. The Billy Graham Center Institute for Prison Ministries offers the Colson Scholarship to ex-offenders to provide them with an education at Wheaton College. The grant is available for tutoring, counseling, tuition, books, transportation and other educational expenses.
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