Cynthia Blake lives cramped in a tiny studio apartment in Long Beach, in a space divided into four units that used to be a church. There is no bathroom inside her home; it’s outside in a different part of the building.
Blake, 53, remembers the $1,050 apartment being advertised for a long time, as interest in the odd setup was low. Still, she felt she had to lie to be considered a potential renter: she did not check the box that asked if she had ever been convicted of a crime.
If she had, there’s a good chance her application for the apartment would have been denied, and her time living on the streets prolonged — a part of her life that she said made her two-year stint in prison for felony drug charges feel like “a relief.”
Housing options for Blake are limited. Tenants are often at the mercy of private landlords who conduct criminal background checks. Regulations restrict people from accessing federally subsidized housing if they’ve been convicted of certain crimes, including drug and sex offenses.