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Homeless felon getting turned down from housing due to criminal past wants a second chance

Homeless felon says landlords deny rental applications her due to her felonies.{ }
Homeless felon says landlords deny rental applications her due to her felonies.
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Homeless convicted felon Roneisha Daniels has been repeatedly getting turned down for housing.

"It’s because of my felonies," she said. "People look at my background and they look at me judging me."

On Monday, CBS12 News followed along with Daniels as she continued her search for housing.

One place that advertised a vacancy on the building left Daniels disappointed when she called to follow up.

"She said that they don’t have any places available," she said.

Next, she tried The Lord’s Place.

"She said, well they don’t have shelter, they can’t take me in," Daniels said as she walked out of the building.

Daniels said she recently got out of jail on a theft charge.

She said she had been stealing hygiene products and clothes due to a lack of money. She also said she didn’t mind her time behind bars.

"Because I knew I was going to have somewhere to lay my head," Daniels said.

She gets a small check from the government each month.

Daniels believes her big hurdle to housing is the question on rental applications that asks about criminal history.

"It makes me nervous," she said.

Daniels said she would also like to get a job to increase her income, which she believes might help increase her housing options, but that's also been tough with her criminal record.

"I can work in customer service," she said. "I have been in jail for stealing, but that’s just something I had to do to get by, to make a way for myself because I had no income coming in."

Nicole Bishop Director of Justice Service for Palm Beach County said Daniels's plight is a common one for people exiting prisons and jails.

"The lack of housing is the number one issue for folks that are coming out of prisons and jails," Bishop said. "It’s a vicious cycle wherein without housing you can’t get a job, without a job you can’t get housing."

Bishop said property owners are often afraid to rent to those with felony convictions, but they shouldn't be.

"They are not all violent criminals," she said. "Many of them are there for drug or property crimes that pose no threat to society."

Arlene Griffiths, a Palm Beach County Re-entry Program Coordinator, agrees.

"Typically no one wants an individual who has a background to live in their backyard for sure," Griffiths said.

Griffiths said felons often end up living on the streets and even when they do find places to live, they are in locations that increase their chances of going back to jail.

"They end up sometimes in the not so great areas and that’s sometimes leads to other problems, possibly drugs and so individuals may tend to get involved again and return to prisons," she said.

Daniels said she hopes people will stop judging her so harshly based on her criminal record.

"They look at your record and they see this bad person and it’s not like that," she said. "I am not a bad person."

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Bishop encourages landlords who are willing to rent to felons to contact the Palm Beach County Department of Justice as there is a shortage of places felons can go once they exit the prison system.

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