Friday, May 27, 2011

CHA Plans To Require Drug Testing For All Adult Tenants

By Maudlyne Ihejerika

The Chicago Housing Authority wants to require all adults who currently live in, or apply in the future for housing in any of its developments, to be tested for drugs — including senior citizens.

The blanket policy proposal for anyone 18 years or older has residents and housing advocates crying foul.

The American Civil Liberties Union charges the public agency seeks to place a double standard on the poor.

“It’s such an insensitive proposal to even bring to the table,” said Myra King, a resident of the Far South Side Lowden Homes development. She chairs the Central Advisory Council of tenant leaders from CHA properties all across the city. Continue Reading


  1. I support this 100%, don't think it will happen, but it would be nice.

    What will happen to the kids of the parents testing positive is my once concern.

  2. I love this! Our Government employees, military, police, firefighters, broom leaner, ect., are subjected to drug test and they (most) are working had for their pay. Why is this to much to ask for the folks not earning their way?

    I don't like getting felt up at the airport, but I understand it's the price you pay to fly. If I don't want to get the old pat down I know I am free to take my own car to my destination.

    Same goes for housing. Don't want a drug test? Try looking in to private housing. Can't afford it? Then please take this cup to the bathroom.

    Funny how our Section 8 crowd usually votes for the "more government" candidates, but when they actually get "more government" they don't want it.

    Also ACLU...don't you have a cross somewhere to protest or something?

  3. Since rates of drug use are about the same between the poor and the more affulent, I think everyone who wants the mortgage interest deduction on their income taxes should also have to submit to drug testing.

  4. If they drug tested people at Lawrence House and the Lorelai, and then kicked them out, those places would be nearly empty

  5. I agree with these measures 100%. It is about time that rules are presented and enforced to the section 8 crowd. You would think that residents of these buildings would welcome any type help to make their living conditions safe and healthy. Not only to them but to thoses who have to live near them too.

  6. Chip well put!

    Toucan, too silly of a comment to go into to.

  7. Toucan - I'm with you. Drug test us all. It will save a lot in healthcare payments too if people stop abusing drugs and alcohol and go get free treatment for their withdrawals.

  8. It's not so much the lazy addicts getting handouts that bothers me, it's that having CHA buildings filled with addicts and the gangs they attract places yet another hurdle on the good people who have to live in those properties.

  9. A possibility which may/probably get overlooked while everyone faints/cheers over the idea of mandatory drug testing:

    When a CHA resident applies for a job, the prospective employer may forgo the need/cost of a drug test based on the fact that the applicant is a CHA resident.

    A benefit, no?

    Actually ... if the standards for residency in CHA properties are made more stringent, that could actually go a very long way towards dissolving many of the negative stereotypes that a lot of people may have of both the CHA and the residents - stereotypes which opponents of this policy have pointed to as being unfairly detrimental to those residents being able to better their lot.

  10. "It’s such an insensitive proposal to even bring to the table,” said Myra King, a resident of the Far South Side Lowden Homes development. She chairs the Central Advisory Council of tenant leaders from CHA properties all across the city.


    It sounds like Myra should be first in line to piss in a cup.

  11. I'm against the drug war and in terms of social issues am a bit of a libertarian. However, and there is always a "however" I'm also a bit of a utilitarian. I'm torn. My brain is ripped asunder with conflicting ideas.

    Will this policy make public housing better for the majority of residents and neighbors? My guess is yes it will. Is the monetary cost excessive. Nope. Is it a completely immoral and draconian policy? Nope.

    I've whizzed in cups as a job requirement in the past and while I didn't like it, the envious glares of my fellow whizzing soldiers made me uncomfortable, I still didn't find it draconian.

    Really, REALLY there are two big issues that desperately need to be addressed in this ward.

    The first is enforcing some standards on the people living in some form of assisted housing. Ultimately, that will be better for the vast majority of the people living there and the neighborhood. I know this will annoy that great scholar Toucan, but it's not the condo owners battling for territory. It's the gangbangers and most of them have direct or indirect ties to people living in subsidized housing.

    The second issue is rebuilding and/or moving the Wilson EL stop.

    I once ran into James Cappleman at his victory soiree, who knew he would be there?, and had a short conversation with him regarding subsidized housing. Let's just say I used a phrase regarding getting tough on property managers that was "uncouth". It involves a sex act that Homer Simpson discreetly referenced in the infamous "Krusty the Clown in Prison" episode.

    You can say I put the UN in "uncouth". I blame alcohol and the failing American education system.

  12. There's no shame in being unable to afford market rate rent. Heck, my family's lived in Uptown since forever, and some generations have been very poor indeed. I thank God there's a safety net for people who can't afford the things so many of us take for granted, like decent housing and food. There wasn't always, and people suffered.

    Having said that, life is a series of negotiations. You want something, you pay the price.

    You want a car when you're a teenager? You save your money.

    You want a college scholarship? You jump through whatever hoops (GPA, extra-curricular activities, work/study program, etc.) the school you want to go to requires of you.

    So if you want to live in a less than market rate home, in my opinion, you put up with whatever rules the CHA imposes, and if drug testing is one of them, that's something you put up with. Accept a drug test or don't accept the housing.

    There was a family in the CHA housing next door to me who got evicted due to drug dealing. I felt bad, because they had kids, and the kids and the parents were nice people. But as a neighbor explained to me, there are lots of law-abiding people who can use and will value that housing. It's not a birthright.

    As long as there's a huge waiting list to get into CHA housing, I don't see a problem with insisting that the people who live there obey the law. As others have pointed out, the people who really benefit from it are their neighbors, who are really the ones who suffer the most when gangs and drugs take over subsidized housing.

  13. Weekend, I am with you. Anyone person rich or poor and every corporation seeking a handout, getting a tax deduction, or subside from the government should be forced to take a drug test. Nothing like perverting democracy by demanding from a minority the wishes of the majority.

  14. Use drugs in your private home, don't use drugs in your private home...Violating the law is a choice, however the consequences of getting caught should not be.

    However, IF you chose to use drugs, accept the consequences such as

    1. You may lose your job.
    2. You may cause harm to yourself or others.
    3. You may lose the PRIVILEGE of receiving subsidized housing.

    Perhaps this type of change should be phased in, which a plan to help current CHA residents who use drugs and want to stay in their homes?

    I understand that people struggle to get by, but, if done right, this level of resident screening could have major benefits to both CHA residents and other members of their communities.

  15. dma
    every corporation

    Um, that would require administering the Hare Psychopathy Checklist to the BOD and officers, not a drug test.

    "I want my life back!" -- BP CEO Tony Hayward, the schmuck.

    So if you want to live in a less than market rate home...

    Wrong right out of the gate. It’s not a "want," it's a "need." The "huge waiting list" is because there is still nowhere near enough affordable housing available in this city for those who need it.

    This proposal gives in to the next-to-the-worst stereotype about the poor - the worst, of course being that being poor is nobody's fault but your own, so you deserve it. “Pay to play,” right Chip?

    Blaming the victim is wrong, whether because someone is poor, or has just been robbed of a diamond ring.

    And I cannot frikkin' believe anyone would call it a "privilege" to be so poor you have to hope for a spot in public housing to stay out of the rain.

    Now I'm off to listen to some old Paul Simon, because I'm reminded of it. Ta-na-na-na-na

  16. I recall reading in horror in the Chicago Tribune, when I was still a teen in another city, published journals of an elderly/disabled woman in public housing.
    She was intelligent and had been a professional writer in the past, and she described being terrorized by the gang members in the building. She'd inadvertently witness some kind of inner-city warfare and a gang member would burst into her room and threaten her to keep quiet, don't "squeal". I was horrified this could happen to an upstanding citizen.
    Then, years later I became disabled and desperate for housing and endured the same situations living in various buildings selected by my social service agency or myself, poorly. I've been criticized for it, but my perception of the average client of social service agencies is dual diagnosis, usually addicted to crack or heroin, and at the very least quasi-criminal and at the least has no qualms with the occasional theft/burglary/receiving stolen property/other petty crime issues. You know, like snatching a purse or a cellphone when the opportunity presents itself.
    They do not work to escape the system, in fact the only hard work they ever did was to finally get INTO the system and rest comfortably. I can't stand these people and everyday I work towards getting away from this system I'm in.
    The welfare/social service system as it's existed for a generation or so has created a culture that is eating away at the foundation of America. Families have been born into welfare and embrace the social norms that cause so many problems in Uptown, nobody ever seems to learn about or try to get anything better in life than a completely taxpayer-subsidized existence. There's gotta be something better in life than living in a building that is so criminally neglected it should be a front page story, a subject of outrage, then going to the rathole community center to shoot pool all day. shooting their mouth off, and maybe scam some joggers and shoppers out of their spare change.
    Someday I will bid my social workers and other people I have to deal with adieu and walk away from this. But I'm a rarity in that regard, if you ask me.

  17. Oh drug testing? Then what rehab??? Yea right.

  18. I support drug testing for people on Welfare. If you apply for a job any where, your employer has the right to test you. So if you want to live off us, we have the right to test you, live by our rules. However, testing can be costly and what do we do if the test come back positive? How many chances does one get? Where do we send them? You know the bleeding hearts will want something for the poor but lazy people.

  19. @Toucan -

    I was the one that referred to living in public housing as a privilege. Your response tells me that I did not communicate the message I intended, so thank you for posting. It was not the best choice of words, because there is a big difference between a want and a need.

    Let me be clear that there are certainly fellow citizens among us that need the shelter and support the CHA provides. When I originally read the proposal to drug test, I thought it might be a great way to force people to make different choices because the consequence would be too great for those who don't truly need CHA. As I put myself in another persons shoes, I would not respond well if I felt someone was forcing me to do anything, so its rather unreasonable for me to expect that drug testing and evictions would get the result I desire (safer, more integrated public housing that is win-win for the the residents and community).

    How can I influence capable people to make different choices from this point forward for the mutual gain of themselves and our community? My gut tells me now that it isn't drug testing, but I would be curious to see what the research shows.

    Getting back to wants vs. needs for a second...

    I live within 20 yards of public housing. The folks in these buildings have been fine neighbors, other than the targeted gunshots at one of the residents two years ago while I was walking home from work. I hope I have been a good neighbor too.

    I have seen some things that I have allowed myself, rightly or wrongly, to question whether my neighbors are in need of the assistance the CHA housing provides. Things like a new 50 inch televisions, brand new luxury cars, and a rented blow-up bounce castle for a children's birthday party. From my perspective, these items are not needs, but luxuries, and are not signals I typically associate with need.

    I am not saying in any way that those less fortunate have any obligation to signal to me that they are struggling, just as it is ill advised for the wealthy to signal that they are in some way better than their fellow man. My intention is to give little context around my frustration - and I am open to suggestions on tempering this frustration.

    I am in support of a dignified, long term solution that helps make sure that those receiving assistance are truly in need, where need is more clearly defined.

  20. @CP for my money I think you nailed it with Social norms. We are allowing the social norms in this community (and country) to be totally warped. While poverty is an unfortunate reality, we have to consider how much we as fellow citizens have allowed people to accept their fate and live their existence that way.

    I think one of the biggest thing to fight poverty is to keep poor people from other poor people. It sounds silly, but when you're surrounded by a social network with different expectations of life, your own expectations have a tendency to change or at the very least you acknowledge that your approach isn't the best.

    The CHA. Should drug test. Or maybe we should have a graduated program. You can enter a CHA program if you have a drug problem, but must begin drug testing after 6 or 12 months of residency.

    At some point people need to be held accountable for themselves.

  21. There is an abundance of affordable housing in the US (even in Chicago)----where? It is wher YOU can afford to live.....

    This idea that we don't have enough affordable housing is crazy. Want to rent a 2br for under $750 but cannot find it in the Gold Coast or Uptown? Sorry, you're right, YOU cannot afford to live in those areas for THAT price. But there are other area's in Chic where you can find a 2br for under $750. Now that rental might not be in down the street from Trump Tower or next to the lake---sorry--YOU just cannot afford to live in those areas for THAT price. Advice -- get a better job, a second job, go back to school, etc. so YOU can afford to live where YOU want to.

  22. I will probably get excoriated for generalizing here, but it seems like the majority of the gangbangers who have traditionally been associated with violence in Uptown, and elsewhere across the city, are young males (and getting younger all the time) with ages predominantly between 13-21. Single "head of household" moms tend to get priority for taxpayer assistance, in terms of Section 8 housing or other benefits, and as the adult tenant in question, THEY are the ones who would be drug tested under such a plan. The mothers themselves may not be hard drug users or violent criminals, but often they are in their teens and early 20's, with equally young boyfriends, cousins, etc., who hang around the property unsupervised and essentially live there without being on the paperwork. Tenants who are older often have children in that age group. According to the policy proposed, only "adult tenants" who are directly receiving CHA aid would be tested, but how much good would this really do? The reality is that gang members are more likely to be the offspring, baby-daddies and extended family members of the tenants, so the testing wouldn't really touch the demographic most responsible for drug trafficking and/or gun violence.

  23. It's a little off topic but my social service agency has a drop-in center in the middle of Linoln Park, the neighborhood is otherwise affluent and then there's this rundown mansion on the corner with (IMHO) riffraff coming in and out of it all day. I noticed the fine men who go there from open until close loiter on Wrightwood and Diversey. There doesn't seem to be a Lincoln Park blog, I always wondered what the neighborhood thought of this place. Or if they know that it was the main source of the panhandlers in the area.

  24. When did it become acceptable to require people to relinquish their civil liberties in order to participate in government programs? Toucan's point is very apt - anybody who receives any government money or favors at all could, under this logic, be required to undergo drug testing.

  25. I am a HUGE liberal but I don't see any thing wrong with this other than it should, perhaps, include all high school aged children as well.

  26. You're a liberal who doesn't see anything wrong with government invasion of medical privacy? Or is it simply the privacy of the poor that is undeserving of respect?

  27. Rob is taking a slippery slope position that i'm partially sympathetic to, but when it comes to the taxpayer funded commons, the govt. has been "invading the medical privacy" of citizens for decades, most notably public intoxication/DUI laws.

  28. Alek, yes it has. Why should its prior abuse excuse new abuse?

  29. Toucan, Rob, thank you. Simply put, Is housing a privilege or a right? How one answers that question begins to shape how one views this business of drug testing. Now if I could pick a law worth passing and enforcing, one outlawing handguns in Chicago would be nice. But of course that's not going to happen in our present FAUX News world.

    There's a deeper issue here as well. Hopefully most folks here aren't dealing with addiction. Or at least an addiction that is illegal. (It is a good bet there are food addicts reading this, perhaps a few addicts in other "legal" consumables as well.) Part of the poverty cycle can involve addiction. So simply shoving the addict off the train so to speak isn't probably going to work out well for the addict... or for the rest of us. His or her addiction will certainly remain even if nothing else in that person's life does remain. And personal chaos often leads to the spread of chaos to others.

    We had to learn this with the Death Penalty; where at one time folks fighting it were marginalized as hopeless uber-liberal wimps, the hard numbers economically made repealing the Death Penalty in this state the way to go. Likewise, could this also be the case were drugs are concerned? What have we accomplished in this nation regarding not just the addicts themselves, but the drug trade? It is a very grim picture; the politicians come out and run on an anti-drug platform, the electorate eats it up, the prisons fill (with poor minorities!), the drug trade thrives!

    And just what was it we were trying to get done here again?

    I sure don't have all the answers. I do however have at least my questions. And so far, there don't seem to be a lot of answers to them.

  30. Jon Trott, your "shelters' where people have lived for years and years, which is against every ordinance know to man, are one of the main problems. JPUSA and the Marc Kaplan Krusaders will do anything to keep what little power you still have in Uptown now that Shiler is out. You have NEVER reached out to the community in a postive way until forced when your benefactor was forced out of office.

    Shelters, which are paid for via tax breaks, are a right. Just as owning a gun, driving a car, etc are a right. THere are a a lot of false arguements here.,

    I am drug tested to have my job, which pays for my mortgage. Thus, I in face have a de facto drug test in order to buy or rent a home. THus, those living in shelters shouled have the same rules.

    I really wish you would take the opportunity to quietly begining fixing up your buidlings, including the one that is STILL not repaired off Leland a year later, and work with the community instead of trying to hold fast to ideas that are past and obviously failures. You are doing yourself and your constituency a huge disservice.

    Quit trying this passive/aggressive crap and start cleaning up your own mess that you have, in large part, both encouraged and created...

  31. @ Jon Trott,

    Very well said. I haven't heard any answers either.

    The one question I have is...everybody goes through urine test...some get evicted...others don't.

    Then what?

    That is the question....then what?

    Alek actually asked a good question too, right there in the first comment. Does not seem to bother him either way but...what will happen to the kids? Boy that is a good one. Peace.

  32. Mr. Littleton, what about my kids now that have to walk into the street to avoid the drunks and crackheads, that have to go through and past all of the gangbangers. What do I tell them when I see nothing but crack baggies and empty beer bottles all around... when they see drug dealers, hide when all the shootings happen, have no decent public schools to go to because of all the violence, get beat up if they tell the police what they see and cannot walk in safety day or night?

    What about those kids? Or, because they are not homeless, their needs are not important? Bullcrap. Dont try the passive/aggressive crap either... think through an arguement completely before making broad statements...

    Another false arguement out to rest... quit making excuses and start making positive moves to fix this problem...

  33. Uptown has a plethora of special services for those with addiction issues, many which are residential programs. Addiction is a reality that impacts people of all races and economic classes. By giving an addict free housing, you are not helping them end the cycle of addiction. Give them the real help they need, and not just a roof over their head to continue their abuse.

    I am required to be drug tested to obtain and maintain my employment. Is that wrong? Is employment a right or privilege? Have we become a society that just wants everything handed to them while not contributing?

    I applaud the CHA for moving towards improving the lives of the people it houses and the entire community.

  34. Well, Jon,I may have a food addiction problem, but I have never seen employees of Peapod and Dominick's fire random shots at each other near my apartment over who gets my business that week. Or Pepsi and Coke truck drivers...

  35. Well said Truman

    Call me stupid or ignorant, but I can't understand the logic of people who think that there is an obligation for us to provide this with nothing in return?

    If you ask your community to help pay for housing since you simply can't afford market rates,regardless of why you are in this situation, how is it that you can afford to buy drugs?

    Yes, I do understand it's an addiction, but if you are asking for help because you can't afford to pay the market rate it's hard to accept that you have enough discretionary income after receiving assistance to support a drug habit. When I have bills to pay, I am expected to pay them. In order to do that, I give up on my favorite things like restaurants, movies, clothes, etc until I can once again afford them. Drugs, to my mind, are not higher than a home on the Hierarchy of Needs.

    My thoughts on failed tests:
    You get one chance to appeal (as with most jobs). If you fail the second time, you must wait at least 2 years to retest before applying again. If you fail 3 times, you're out for good. If the overwhelming need is genuine, there will be ample supply of residents who are willing to contribute positively and be law abiding citizens. If you can't achieve a good result for a home, how will any of these folks retain stable and gainful employment?!?

    I am absolutely in favor of social and public services. I believe it is my civic duty to provide my support when I am in a position of prosperity. However, I am not interested in becoming abused simply because other spokes in the wheel are abusing.

  36. I think testing the people would be the first step to changing things for the good. alot of people in low incoming housing are addicts. they cant afford to pay the rent for their own apartment but they can help the dope man wit putting more guns on the streets cause thats what their buying with the peoples money. i also think they should add that if your kidf is active in a gang and bring that around the property that family should be put out. maybe more parents would get some kind of control over these kids that seem to be getting younger and younger everyday joining these gangs.its about time the addicts in uptown seem to be able to get help from all the agents in the community.

  37. A little OT but I wanted to say: I am a veteran of shelters in two states and although I was lucky enough not to stay at Cornerstone, I did stay at other ones in Chicago. A person who was a acquaintance of mine last fall told me a lot of what goes on there, and it sounded pretty familiar. She'll be forever bitter about it.
    What I saw in my shelters, instead of qualified individuals who were trained to deal with mentally ill/addicted people, they were simply just the most favored bullies who moved their way up from standing at the counter to being behind the counter. Abuse, abuse, abuse. Did you know you can just bully the sickness out of somebody? Somebody call NAMI! Revise the DSM manual. When people such as myself finally graduate from the system, they are just so much worse off than ever before. When they finally get housing they have to overcome the freakin' PTSD from the constant abuse when they were homeless.
    Also, whatever powers that be, must be pretty pleased that our youth only want to aspire to thug culture. That way the corrupt politicians can do whatever they want, because most people aren't paying attention.
    In every walk of life I see people only wanting to be known and admired for being "tough" and "hard" and every transaction in life has to be or in some way involve a "hustle". I don't know who or what started this stupidity, and I don't know how it's going to stop, either. But this kind of culture is the driving force behind what's wrong with Uptown, it's no longer a drug problem, it's a drug culture. Too many youths in this nation only admire criminals and aspire to be the same.

  38. Here's a really good reason this is a bad idea: