Families Untied: Public Housing Banning Policy Tears Families Apart

(Cross-posted to Daily Kos and Feministing.)

What if the government told you your family couldn't live together? That your father, or your son, or your boyfriend couldn't even come over to your house to visit? That if he did visit you, he would be arrested, prosecuted for trespassing, possibly incarcerated, and you could be evicted?

That's exactly what the city of Annapolis, MD, is telling its public housing residents.

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The city's public housing authority maintains a list of people – currently over 500 – who are banned from being on or near public housing property. The housing authority claims that all of these people are a danger to the community, but the fact is many of them have never been convicted or even charged with a crime, while others committed minor offenses years ago and have long since served their time. Still, they can't get off the list.

Dalanda Moses is a young woman trying to juggle work, school, and being a new mother. Her boyfriend, James, wanted to be involved throughout her pregnancy and once their daughter, Mariah, was born, but was banned from entering Dalanda's family's home in public housing based on a juvenile drug charge for which he was never prosecuted. Appeals to the housing authority to allow James to be a part of their lives went unanswered, so Dalanda was forced to choose between raising her daughter without a father and moving out of her family's home, just when she needed their help the most.

Glenda Smith is raising her four-year-old great-grandson, Rico, and has to explain to him why his mother can't live with them – she was arrested two years ago and is still banned, even though she has been released from the juvenile justice system and completed a rehabilitation program. Glenda asks,

Would you want someone coming to your home and telling you what to do, who can come in your house, how to raise your kids? This is their property, but the families, they don't own us.

These and other residents of public housing – primarily low-income women of color – are trying to raise families under already difficult conditions, which are made more difficult when the housing authority prevents their partners, children, and grandchildren from being involved in their family lives. The "tough-on-crime" policies that are ostensibly designed to improve life for the residents are having the opposite effect by criminalizing family life and tearing families apart.

Learn more about the Annapolis public housing ban and the ACLU case challenging it at www.aclu.org/housingban. Watch videos featuring Dalanda, Glenda, and other plaintiffs in the case on YouTube. And learn more about all of the ACLU's work on behalf of women impacted by the criminal justice system at www.aclu.org/crimjustice/women and on the ACLU of Maryland's website.

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Li

What is with people trying to tell others where to live, who can visit them where ever and when ever and who do these people think they are telling any of us what to do and when to do it and what to say. I pay my own bills and I stay with in the laws and I am a Christian and I go by the Bible 1st and foremost so no one has a right to tell me who my friends are what I'm allowed to do or say. I will say any thing I want that is not abusive to another human being and I will keep praying whether I'm at home in my own private place or out in public quietly or outloud in a church. I don't stop others from what they wish to say or do so I refuse to allow anyone to stop me. What happened to our rights and freedoms this awesome country was founded on?????????? And I never gave any body any rights over ME and I won't just like I won't stop somebody else from living their life their way even if I don't agree with their own ways or beliefs.

roald

Li, thank you for your note. You are a model for a good Christian and I salute you.

carolann

We still have the freedom of CHOICE to WORK, make money, and take care of ourselves. If you BREED and believe that CHILDREN will make the poverty go away, then you DESERVE to be told what to do because you are too ignorant to control your own situation. At least these families have somewhere to live. Those of us who are poor in the rural areas of this country live in tents or vehicles on National Forest lands. We have nothing but ourselves and we like it that way. You live in government housing, you follow their rules. Duh.

HUD man

Good move. To eliminate the problem let's do away with government assisted housing. I was a HUD inspector for years and it is one of the biggest wastes of the working man's (something with which most HUD residents would be totally unfamiliar)tax dollar -- a total government give-away program. Do away with it and the problem with who can and who cannot visit goes away, along with the waste of taxpayers' money. I like it!!

HUD man

Where is my post from earlier today? You extol free speech as long as it is what you damn liberals want to hear. But if anyone expresses a counterpoint, you can't handle it and scream "hate speech" or some other stupid liberal-ism. You and the rest of your ilk are taking our country down a path where we are being totally emasculated by third world midgets. It won't be long before we are a third world country thanks to you idiots.

bj

Li, I think you're taking this to the extreme. The deal is that it's public housing and have to abide by their rules and regulations. If you think they're unfair, which some may be, then you are free to reside elsewhere where you can have whomever you wish come and visit.

Tesa

Okay, Im seeing a common thread in the article. These are people that are living on MY TAX DOLLARS in ASSISTED housing, and the government is trying to keep CRIMINAL element out of it. Hmmmmm... Am I missing something? If the person has been in trouble with the law, to what ever extent, then you either stay on MY TAX dollar, or go pay your own bills and stay where ever you please. I am so sick and tired of everyone else calling foul, most of which to one extent or the other, are living off of ME!

The Czech

Tenants in public housing do pay rent. This is not free housing. Public housing residents are not free to move elsewhere, unless you mean the street. There are very stringent qualifications and years-long waiting lists to get in, and only the poorest are taken. They do not have the means to live elsewhere, so they would simply become homeless if their housing was taken away.

I don't see how society benefits, or crime reduced, or money saved, by making some of our most vulnerable citizens homeless.

Poverty does not negate your basic human rights. Human rights apply to everyone equally, rich or poor. Encroaching on public housing residents' right of association, or even their right to have a family, is an egregious violation.

Public housing residents deserve dignity.

I am really sick of these "my tax dollars" arguments. When did naked greed become a valid argument for *anything*?

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