Entire Families Can Be Kicked Out of Public Housing for One Member’s Drug Use, According to Today’s U.S. Supreme Court Decision

Press Release March 25, 2002
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Tony Newman at 510-208-7711

The U.S. Supreme Court today held that innocent family members of people who have used drugs can be evicted from public housing. According to the ruling, family members do not even have to know about the drug use to be vulnerable.

“This decision places an unreasonable burden on poor parents that other parents simply do not face,” said Dan Abrahamson, director of legal affairs for Drug Policy Alliance, the nation’s leading drug policy reform organization. “Jeb Bush was not kicked out of his public housing due to his daughter’s drug use. Other parents should be given the same respect.”

In the case — U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) v. Rucker — tenants of the Oakland Housing Authority challenged HUD’s One Strike Policy,” which permits the eviction of entire families upon unsubstantiated allegations of drug use by a single family member, regardless of whether or not other members of the household had knowledge of such drug use, or where it took place.

Pearlie Rucker now faces eviction from the Oakland Housing Authority for her mentally-disabled daughter’s possession of cocaine three blocks from the Rucker residence; and for her adult son’s possession of cocaine eight blocks away. No drugs were ever found inside the residence. Also facing eviction is Herman Walker, who is 75 and disabled, for the drug-related activity of his in-home caretaker whom he fired shortly after he learned that she had been cited for narcotics and paraphernalia while on the premises of his residence. Willie
Lee and Barbara Hill also face eviction from their homes after their grandsons’ first-time marijuana possession offense.

The Oakland Housing Authority made no allegations that any of the parties facing eviction personally engaged in or had any knowledge of the drug-related activities.

“Homelessness is a cruel price to pay for a crime you had nothing to do with.” said Abrahamson. “Those who do have drug problems need treatment, not the heavy hand of the law.”

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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