Breaking Barriers is a groundbreaking program in Los Angeles County that provides housing stability and employment training to individuals on felony probation. The program was designed to support the Los Angeles County Probation Department’s efforts to reduce recidivism and address the issue of homelessness among individuals on felony probation in Los Angeles County.

The Need

People exiting criminal justice settings face major barriers to housing and employment because of discrimination, coupled with LA County’s untenable rental market and wages that have failed to keep up with market prices. Housing is key to breaking the cycle between incarceration and homelessness, as national homelessness data indicates that people are more likely to be re-incarcerated if they lack stable housing.

The Solution

In recognition of these challenges, Brilliant Corners, Los Angeles County Probation Department, Los Angeles County Department of Health Services (DHS), Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH), Chrysalis, and the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, launched Breaking Barriers in 2015. Breaking Barriers provides a critical intervention through access to stable housing and employment training, coupled with case management services and tenancy supports to help clients thrive and succeed.

The Impact

How it Works

The goal of Breaking Barriers is for clients to “transition in place” and assume full rental payments at the end of the 24-month rental subsidy and services. All referrals come directly from Probation, and once enrolled, clients are assigned a Brilliant Corners Case Manager and Housing Coordinator and a Chrysalis Employment Specialist. These specialists work closely together along with the referring Probation Officer to stabilize and support clients on the path to self-sufficiency, giving clients the tools they need to stay housed, employed, and thrive.

Eugene’s Story

Eugene is the talented head chef at a well-known restaurant. But as a young adult, he struggled with substance use, cycled in and out of the justice system and experienced homelessness. His probation officer referred him to Breaking Barriers, where Eugene accessed housing and case management services, as well as job training opportunities that helped him launch a career in the food industry. Housing provided Eugene the stability he needed to excel in his life and career.

It feels amazing to live in a place of my own. I have a real sense of independence.

Eugene, Breaking Barriers Participant

A Nationally Recognized Model

The National Alliance to End Homelessness—the thought and policy leader on rapid rehousing—has continuously highlighted Breaking Barriers’ model as a best practice.

COVID Response

COVID-19 hit, the Breaking Barriers team immediately connected with their clients, assessing their levels of vulnerability—from food security to health needs. Within days, Breaking Barriers staff started no-contact food and supply deliveries to their clients, as well as diapers and baby wipes to Breaking Barriers families. Program staff are helping clients who’ve lost work navigate unemployment and are connecting them to benefits and vital community referrals. And most of all, they’re providing a support system for clients in this difficult time.

“I’d like to thank the Breaking Barriers program for being the greatest help in my life especially when I had nothing. The support system has definitely shown me that life has only just begun with second chances.”

—Breaking Barriers Program Participant