Pubdate: Fri, 29 Mar 2002
Source: West Hawaii Today (HI)
Copyright: 2002 West Hawaii Today
Author: Tiffany Edwards


HILO - Hawaii public housing officials this week were awaiting direction 
from Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as to how a federal law and 
related polices will be implemented to evict families with even one member 
engaged in drug activity.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a "one - strike" provision in 1988 
drug law, allowing government agencies to evict entire families in public 
housing for the drug activity of just one member - even if the rest of the 
family was not aware the drug activity was taking place.

The Oakland, Calif. case that was appealed to the Supreme Court involves a 
63 - year - old woman whose disabled daughter was caught with cocaine three 
blocks from the apartment and resulted in the family's eviction from public 

Hawaii County Housing Administrator Edwin Taira said Thursday the Supreme 
Court ruling affects anyone who lives in public housing or receives Section 
8 rental assistance, which is approximately 1,484 people on the Big Island.

Darrell Young, housing information officer for the Housing and Community 
Development Corporation of Hawaii, said public housing officials were 
awaiting "guidance" from HUD as to how the 14 - year - old law will be applied.

Young said housing officials had been evicting Hawaii families whose 
members were involved in drug activity, before the Oakland case went to the 
Supreme Court.

He could not provide Thursday an exact number of such evictions have 
occurred in the state, and on the Big Island.

He said the high court's ruling has raised questions which include where 
the drug activity of the family member would have to occur - on or near the 
premises, or anywhere.

"We're trying to find out exactly what the ruling means, as to how we were 
operating," Young said. He did not say when the Housing and Community 
Development Corporation of Hawaii expects to hear from HUD regarding its 

Nevertheless, the ruling was well received by those involved in public 
housing, and the chief of the island's only emergency shelter in Hilo.

East Hawaii Coalition for the Homeless Executive Director Steven Bader said 
policies and procedures are in place that forbid drug activity at the 
shelter and transitional housing program, which includes eight apartments, 
four two - bedroom duplexes and two homes.

He said there is "a fear" that the one - strike provision in the law would 
give public housing officials "carte blanche to move people out."

"In our case, we'll look at the individual circumstances, and an example 
being if there was a multi - generational family we would be careful not to 
penalize the entire household if one family member was in violation of our 
drug policy," Bader said.

Puna Councilman Gary Safarik, who leads the council's housing and community 
development committee, spoke of the need to look at cases individually and 
to be "sensitive" to the fact that the drug activity of one family member 
"may not be promoted or approved by the people renting or receiving Section 8."

Section 8 applicants sign a form stating they understand if they engaging 
in any criminal activity - including drugs and domestic violence - is 
grounds for eviction or termination of the program, Taira said, adding the 
county has been following it for years. His office was also not able to 
provide Thursday an exact number of related evictions.

In any case, Safarik said the high court ruling provides "a little more 
teeth to evict those persons who are participating in that kind of activity."

"The negative impact may be some of these folks are going to be evicted but 
I think the larger benefit is we're going to be removing any illegal 
activity from these housing areas or anybody who receives Section 8," 
Safarik said. "I think the good outweighs the negative."

He also said the ruling sends a message to those engaged in drug activity, 
or who have signed a Section 8 application saying they wouldn't engage in 
criminal activity.

"It may make them think a little bit harder about their activity and the 
impact it would have on them or their family if they were evicted," Safarik 

"The way the federal government is looking at it is you're deriving a 
benefit from the taxpayers and there are certain responsibilities that you 
have in order to do that," Young said.
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