Blog of Rights

Families Untied: Public Housing Banning Policy Tears Families Apart

By Selene Kaye, ACLU at 3:56pm
(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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