The Huffington Post reports on yet another appalling situation brought on by the war on drugs. A mother of three who needs a kidney transplant is being kicked out of public housing because someone else was caught with drug paraphernalia in her house.
For now, Anderson lives with her three children, ages 4, 7 and 14, in a three-bedroom town house about two miles west of Old Town Alexandria. This past May, she received notice that her lease would be terminated. The city is trying to evict her for crimes that she didn’t commit — not even the city claims she did — under a 1996 drug war policy developed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development to make public housing safer.
Under HUD’s one-strike policy, any drug offense may lead to eviction from public housing, even offenses of which the tenants themselves are unaware and even if the offenses were committed off-site. And that has led to cases like Anderson’s, in which a poor, single, desperately ill woman and her three kids may lose the only place they have to live over someone else’s misbehavior.
In this case, that someone else was her mother, who they say actually had cleaned up before they found the paraphernalia in a bag in some of her belongings being stored there. And this is yet another example where both parties support repugnant laws like this. And this is hardly an unusual situation:
Stories abound about the one-strike policy being wielded in seemingly egregious ways to evict “innocent tenants,” such as a disabled elderly man in California whose caretaker was caught with crack. (Although not the result of one-strike, Alexandria’s penchant for strictly applying eviction rules led in 1999 to the eviction of a kidney donor whom the city found staying in a friend’s public housing unit. Andrew Cuomo, then secretary of housing and urban development, leased the woman an affordable townhouse unit in the District of Columbia.) The Chicago Reporter wrote in September that 86 percent of Chicago’s one-strike evictions last year did not arise from criminal activity by the person named on the lease.
“These policies, the effect of them on children, families, women, families of color, were not thought through. And I think now a national conversation is beginning to rethink that,” said Ariela Migdal, a senior staff attorney with the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. Migdal pointed to a June 2011 letter from HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan to public housing directors, encouraging the directors to use their “broad discretion” to create a flexible set of standards for who will be admitted to and allowed to stay in public housing.
Sometimes I think the war on drugs is really a war on sanity.