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Justices uphold war on drugs in public housing

By Helen Redmond | April 5, 2002 | Page 2

THE U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously last week that public housing officials can evict tenants for drug use by family members.

The decision came in a case regarding the 1998 Anti-Drug Abuse Act, passed under Bill Clinton. The law requires public housing agencies to issue leases that allow tenants to be evicted if they, their family members or a guest engage in drug-related crimes--whether or not the tenants know about them, and even if they occur off public housing property.

And who are the "dangerous criminals" that the Supreme Court justices decided had to be turned out into the street? Sixty-four-year-old Pearlie Rucker, her mentally disabled teenage daughter, two grandchildren and a great-grandchild.

The decision gave the Oakland Housing Authority the green light to evict the Rucker family--because the daughter was convicted of possessing cocaine, not on public housing property, but three blocks away.

Among the other possible victims are 72-year-old Willie Lee and 64-year-old Barbara Hill--because their grandsons, who lived with them in a public housing unit, were caught smoking marijuana in the parking lot.

As Sheila Crowley, head of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said of the decision, "The only way they can get away with it is because it affects poor people."

Of course, not everyone in public housing has to worry. George W. Bush and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush both have family members with drug problems. But you won't see them evicted from their new homes.

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