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CHA Gets Angry Earful Over Drug Testing Proposal

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #687)
Drug War Issues

As we reported last week, the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) has proposed requiring all adults living in public housing -- including senior citizens -- to take a drug test. If the person failed the drug test, he or she would be evicted. It also proposed evicting any resident whose family members gets arrested on drug charges.

Lake Parc Place residents let CHA CEO Lewis Jordan know what they thought of his bright idea. (Image courtesy CHA)
The CHA held a public hearing Thursday night, and if the response was an indication, that trial balloon is going over like a lead balloon. While one speaker supported the plan, the rest lashed out at the CHA and its new CEO, Lewis Jordan, the man who crafted the proposal.

"We all want a safe, healthy and drug-free environment, but the reality is we don't live in a drug-free world, a drug-free Chicago, a drug-free Illinois," said Darlene Hale, a CHA resident, in remarks reported by the Chicago Sun-Times. "How in the world can you demand that poor people be subjected to rules and regulations that is going to put them on the street and create more homeless people?" she asked.

Renaud Tatum, an 11-year resident at Lake Parc Place, said he was "highly offended" when he read about drug testing aimed at the poor. "I challenge Mr. Jordan to hire a third-party consulting firm to do scientific research to substantiate a correlation between low-income people having a higher use of drugs then people with higher incomes," he said.

Audrey Motes, a Lake Parc Place resident, told CHA officials she faces eviction because her adult son, who doesn't live with her, was arrested on a drug offense. She pleaded with Jordan to be able to stay.

"I'm not the one who did anything wrong," she said. "He is a 28-year-old man, and I raised him to do better. "I was at work just like I am now and he was out here getting into trouble. Why should that affect me? I don't feel that is right."

But Jordan wants to remove language that says the "resident may raise a defense that the resident did not know, nor should have known, of said criminal activity."

"Removing the innocent tenant defense from the lease agreement will, in my opinion, do nothing to reduce crime at public housing developments," said Lawrence Wood, an attorney with the Legal Assistance Foundation for Metropolitan Chicago. "All it will do is ensure that innocent people are evicted for crimes that they did not foresee and that they could do nothing to prevent."

Under the current language, Motes can stay -- if she bars her son from coming to see her.

"If I agree to be on probation for six months and bar him from visiting the building, then I can keep my apartment," she said. "But I am going to fight it to the end. They are destroying these people's families. You've got to put your child out and bar them from the building. They are breaking up people's families. It's just ridiculous."

"These policies are wrong and should not be applied to our people." Alderman Pat Dowell told Jordan.

As the public hearing ended, Jordan tried to be conciliatory. He had broached the ideas after hearing from frightened residents, he said.

"Because of the drug environment, sometimes they feel very unsafe," Jordan said. "We're just trying to find a balance and again I just want to stress the fact that we're here to listen and a final decision hasn't been made."

We will shortly find out whether Jordan actually did listen to CHA residents. If he did, he will drop the proposals in short order.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Fairuse (not verified)

Judging by the tone of the comments in the SUn Times article, we are headed full tilt boogie towards mandatory drug testing for all. The concensus seems to be if we have nothing to hide we have nothing to fear. I fear THEM.

Mon, 06/06/2011 - 3:07am Permalink
Arnold (not verified)

In reply to by Fairuse (not verified)

Be afraid, we are already there man. About 90% of employers drug test? It seems that way if you've been looking recently, anyway. Its not just CHA, the drug-test crazzies are rising everywhere. How the hell else do you think the freedom takers are going to deal with the urge to legalize "currently illegal drugs"? Sure, you can smoke pot, but then you can't have a job or access to the social safety net. What a choice! My sanity and principles or my basic needs....? Anyone have an answer?

Mon, 06/06/2011 - 2:13pm Permalink
Moonrider (not verified)

In reply to by Arnold (not verified)

either tell any prospective employer you refuse to be drug tested because it is a violation of your rights and your privacy, or else get a job where there is no testing.  If everyone did that, all this employer drug testing would go away.

Learn to support yourself by being self sustaining, grow your own food, barter for foods you can't grow yourself and for other items you need but cannot make yourself, and then, even if you live in the woods or under a bridge, you will survive.  Again, if enough people opt out of being oppressed, pretty damn soon the oppressors will have to give up, because no one is paying them any attention.  Just flat out refuse to be tested under any circumstances (except arrest for DUI).  The only other answer is revolution and I don't think anyone really wants to see that happen.

That being said, it IS bullshit that so many busybodies are getting in the unconstitutional act and proposing these oppressive measures.

Tue, 06/07/2011 - 2:31am Permalink
Dupont Robert (not verified)

Well I must stress i feel for these people. I do really  I do, though I must agree that the drug testing will insure them all safely from drug users. Also it will help keep drug dealers out of there. Besides why are they complaing. if they have nothing to hide then, shut the fuck up. This is america, Were  if your on another level of the social latter then you obey different if your poor, just understand your not really an american your just another cracked egg on the side of the street, this will help lower crime.and above poster I love your idea everyone needs to be drug tested. mandoriy every 2 weeks. also it's best not to drug test thoughs who keep us safe like law enforcement,governement officals.and those of us who live in  high socity neibourhoods

Mon, 06/06/2011 - 12:48pm Permalink
Baja K (not verified)

If employees and/or recipients of public tax money can be drug tested as a condition of employment or receiving benefits...what are Public Officials but our employees, who get paid with public funds?

A senator or judge or mayor or even dog catcher on drugs can be a great threat to the public. Along with airline pilots, school bus drivers, and ship captains, etc., they must be first in line for any drug testing requirements.   Until that becomes law, any thoughts of drug-testing public housing residents or the like must be forgotten.

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 3:21pm Permalink
Sathor (not verified)

Please, if you live in the area affected by this vain attempt at unreasonable search and seizure, request information on the stock holdings of this CEO. Find out if he has stock in drug testing agencies, or has received kickbacks from them recently. If he has, get him indicted on charges of corruption. It is my professional opinion that many politicians and corporate executives are associated with the stocks that rise as a result of increased drug testing, besides being handed checks from them. If you follow the paper trail, you will see there's only one reason they'd suggest a violation of your constitutional rights - it will result in more money for them. It has nothing to do with protecting you from drugs - after all, marijuana has been proven by medical professionals time and time again to be one of the safest drugs - even safer than tobacco and alcohol - in our entire world.

We as people need to take control of this country. One of the ways we can do that is by forcing all of our elected officials, and even private business owners, to release to the public the ENTIRETY of their income and expenditures, INCLUDING any gifts from corporations. The whole bureaucratic system is corrupt, and the only way to change the systems of law is to spend money doing so! We don't have a voice because we don't have enough money to spend on forcing their hands!

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 5:00pm Permalink
maxw22d (not verified)

I thought Moonrider had the best point: more self-sufficiency, i.e. if you aren't hooked on as many $$ luxuries you can afford to work for less money and take a pass on high-pay "drug test" jobs a$$ki$$ing some hypocrite employer.

What (except for hemp) is the most valuable resource of all?  WOOD.  And there is dead wood lying around (especially in drought times-- witness Arizona today) unharvested, ready to burst into flames (the 2003 California fires allegedly cost the economy $6 billion).  Can anyone make money off of picking up trillions of dead sticks, broken pallets, etc.?  You betcha if they are a duly diligent, practiced handworker, and that goes for toys, tool handles, music instruments and thousands of other product entities which can be made in your garage (or tent) with cheap hand tools (up to maybe electric drill and table saw). 

Best Payoff: a single 25-mg toke in your handmade one-hitter can be enough to inspire you to invent a fabulously interesting use for any chunk of salvaged deadwood or scrap lumber!  And enjoy intimately the unique no-two-alike beauty of each piece, especially after trimming and sanding exposes the GRAIN.

And if you are brazen enough you might get a local government to subsidize your removal of said materials from littered wooded areas, parks etc.  Try to organize a group of friends to go out on such expeditions, and don't forget to take BEFORE and AFTER photos, showing the progression from chaos to neatness, which can be posted on a website or delivered to officials, churches, corporations, neighborhood orgs etc.

Then you may progress to organizing underemployed, ex-offenders, prisoners, immigrunts, handicapped, seniors-- creating JOBS any politician would love to take credit for.

I've been to Chicago, and they are proud of their Park District, but let's face it, there are places where a running kid could get speared in the eye by a low-flying dead branch, leading to a $3,000,000 lawsuit (remember those Illinois lawyers?) and the same is true on the Sierra Madre or any place you happen to be located.  (And, if we ever got finished with all the deadwood, there's tree-planting; check out Nobel-Prizewinner Wangari Maathai's organization.  By the way, HEMP is world's best precursor crop for reforestation!)

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 7:24pm Permalink
Bruno Tam (not verified)

Drug test the poor when politicians and police are drug tested every month first

Fri, 06/10/2011 - 12:52pm Permalink
scoogy (not verified)

This is part of conservatives' efforts to remove as many people as possible from the safety net and give the money to the rich. Don't believe me? Check out the Paul Ryan budget, agreed to by all but nine Republicans in the House and the Senate.

Sat, 06/11/2011 - 11:50am Permalink
Chi-Living (not verified)

Well let me begin by saying, I do agree with the tenant not being responsible for a family member being a felon or drug addict as they cannot be responsible for another persons actions but in the situation of drug testing... I am in FULL AGREEMENT !!! I own a building and have been blessed with a great, clean, responsible elderly woman with custody of her 3 grandchildren and I could have not prayed for a better SECTION 8 tenant but that's not the situation in all the section 8 buildings around my area. I do believe that if the GOVERNMENT PAYS for your family to have a roof over your head and food on your table (because the majority are receiving a large amount of food stamps also), they should have the right to request these citizens to be clean, responsible "recipients". Section 8 wants owners to follow rules and regulations well so should the tenants. You ever wonder why most recipients don't have jobs... might be they can't pass a drug test?? HHHmmmm, just saying. I believe that if you want to "assist" people with bettering their lives and paying all their expenses; rent, food, utilities (CEDA), healthcare, child care, etc ... then you should have a say so on what they do in their lives to have this "PRIVILEGE"!!! And for people who say this is just a way to keep minority people down, save it!! I'm Hispanic and I'm not prejudice in no shape or form, especially since my children are half african american but we need to be alot more aware of where and who our money is supporting and "make" people care about their lives especially when we are making it so EASY for them!!! I wish my life was that EASY, I know I'd do whatever possible to appreciate and if that means being DRUGFREE, so be it, that's what I'll be for my children and OUR future!!!  Now that's the SAD REALITY!!!

Wed, 06/22/2011 - 1:39pm Permalink

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