Housing Authority Opens Doors To Ex-Offenders

Thomas MacMillan PhotoAlleged gang-bangers rounded up in the city’s new anti-gun violence initiative have a new incentive to stay straight—a chance to jump the 1,000-person waiting list for subsidized housing.

That’s because the housing authority board has voted to set aside 20 new subsidized Section 8 vouchers for people caught up in the city’s new crime-fighting initiative, Project Longevity. Under Project Longevity, the police call groups of alleged gang members in to a meeting and warn them to stop shooting—or feel the wrath of law enforcement. Cops vow to arrest everyone possible in the group, whether for violation of parole or probation, owing money to the IRS, or even violating a housing authority lease. They also offer the gangbangers carrots like extra help with job-training, job-seeking, education.

The housing authority board vote last Tuesday introduced a carrot to complement the stick. By a unanimous vote, four commissioners agreed to start opening doors to gang members who would otherwise be barred from public housing.

Housing authority rules currently pose barriers to people with criminal records: Applicants who have committed a misdemeanor offense in the past three years, or a felony in the past 10 years, are not eligible for public housing.

The board voted to ease those regulations for up to 20 gang members taking part in Project Longevity. Applicants will be screened by the prison reentry initiative at City Hall, according to Karen DuBois-Walton, the housing authority’s executive director.

DuBois-Walton said there are three crimes the housing authority cannot overlook. Federal guidelines bar lifetime sex offenders and people convicted of manufacturing methamphetamine in public housing from accepting publicly subsidized housing. And the city’s housing authority won’t accept anyone convicted of arson. In cases where people were convicted of other crimes, the federal Office of Housing and Urban Development has recommended local housing authorities launch new efforts to help them return from prison.

New Haven had already begun to do so. It freed up 12 spots in public housing complexes for people returning from prison, letting them jump long waiting lists. Since the program launched in 2010, two people have been evicted, DuBois-Walton said.

The 20 new spots approved Tuesday would be covered by Section 8 vouchers, not apartments in public housing complexes. The housing authority has leased out 3,300 Section 8 vouchers, which subsidize low-income tenants’ rent in qualifying privately owned housing. DuBois-Walton over 1,000 families are currently waiting for those spots. The city housing authority is now going to open up 20 spots just for people in Project Longevity, DuBois-Walton said. If those people didn’t get on the expedited waiting list, “they would be at the back of the line.”

DuBois-Walton said in opening up a new waiting list for ex-offenders, the housing authority aims to balance the needs of special interests with the needs of the general population. The housing adds to an array of supports the city aims to offer people in Project Longevity in exchange for agreeing to lay down their guns. The aim is to break the cycle of recidivism, reduce gun violence, and save lives.

About 100 prisoners return to New Haven every month, according to the city.

Reached after the meeting, Amy Eppler-Epstein, a lawyer who addresses housing needs for New Haven legal aid, said she supports the latest authority decision to open up the slots.

“I have seen the housing authority set aside a small but notable number of apartments for a variety of programs and policy reasons over the years that are all really trying to address important needs in our community,” she said. Examples include victims of domestic violence and foreclosure.

“While I understand that there is a long waiting list and I know how desperate that need is, I personally think it’s really great that they are trying to be a proactive participant in our community in solving some of the pressing problems that we see.”

Also at last week’s meeting, the housing board voted to open up 12 Section 8 vouchers for families involved in the state Department of Children and Families reunification program. These are families in two situations, DuBois-Walton said: Either DCF took the children out of the guardians’ custody and aims to reunite the family; or the family risks being split up due to an urgent housing need. In either case, the vouchers would make the difference between kids getting sent to foster care or staying with their family.

Besides these two new waiting lists, the city housing authority also offers special waiting lists to some project-based Section 8 housing complexes, including supportive housing, DuBois-Walton said.

The item passed with little discussion at the housing commissioner’s regular meeting Tuesday.

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posted by: anonymous on December 27, 2012  12:19pm

Oroviding the social services that are required when disadvantaged people can’t find good quality housing is generally many times more expensive to the State than just providing the housing is.

However, the City of New Haven can not be responsible for all of the costs in the State of Connecticut. This must be done at a regional and state level. What are the Section 8 policies like in surrounding towns?

Can the courts become more involved, as they have been in Westchester?

posted by: falva3349 on December 27, 2012  1:57pm

How about a special list for homeless veterans or veterans being discharged after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

posted by: tina tucci on December 27, 2012  2:10pm

Let me get this straight.  My 75 year old friend down the street who is about to be foreclosed upon and who will have no income other than his paltry social security, will have to wait 18 months for subsidized housing while 20 young people who are involved in criminal activity will be able to move in right away. 
Way to go New Haven! I will advise my friend to join a gang immediately.  Seems like his best bet.

posted by: anonymous on December 27, 2012  2:56pm

Tina: The unions who control our city and state government, and whose leaders are based almost entirely in the suburbs, want big raises for people making $100,000 to $300,000 per year in salary and benefits, even as city housing supports are slashed, summer “youth at work” jobs for teenagers in poor neighborhoods canned, and property taxes raised so that more people like your 75 year old friend get foreclosed on (and more poor families have to pay sky-high rents). 

It’s not just the unions. Consider the contractors led by DeStefano, who are lobbying for more new school buildings so that they can buy more BMWs for their teenage sons out in Woodbridge.

The unions and contractors are operating in a political vacuum, sucking up all the resources for themselves without regard for their impact on the poor.

Unless they begin putting social justice first, and McMansions in Westbrook second, they will be canned, too.  Camden, which just eliminated its entire unionized police force, and Michigan, which is on the way to eliminating all unions statewide, are good examples.

posted by: KarenDW on December 27, 2012  4:42pm

Actually, HANH does offer a preference for families impacted by foreclosure and for veterans. Families who are interested should contact us. It is our goal to be responsive to local needs. We also welcome comment and suggestions from the public.

posted by: KarenDW on December 27, 2012  4:52pm

HANH offers preferences for families facing foreclosure and for veterans. Interested families should contact us.  We try to be responsive to local needs. We remain open to suggestions from the public.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on December 27, 2012  5:16pm

posted by: anonymous on December 27, 2012 2:56pm

Tina: The unions who control our city and state government, and whose leaders are based almost entirely in the suburbs,

Can you prove that the unions who control our city and state government.What about the people who voted them in.How about the crooked bankers and the koch brothers who bankroll those in government.

posted by: Stephen Harris on December 28, 2012  8:02am

Anon is right in pointing out that the solution should be region-wide. The long waiting list for affordable housing is a good indicator of the growing social divide.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on December 28, 2012  11:41am

posted by: anonymous on December 27, 2012 2:56pm

Unless they begin putting social justice first, and McMansions in Westbrook second, they will be canned, too.  Camden, which just eliminated its entire unionized police force, and Michigan, which is on the way to eliminating all unions statewide, are good examples.

Social Justice.“We must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work.’ It is a law to rob us of our
civil rights and job rights… Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone. Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights.“
– Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., speaking on right-to-work laws in 1961

Camden went bankrupt not because of the unions.It went bankrupt like Detroit due to post industrial decay.Did you know that Camden once was a significant manufacturing hub but those days are long gone. In many communities, major employers abandoned their workers with no compunction and often without deserved pensions,automating employees out of their jobs. Other employers, as in Detroit, simply relocated their plants overseas entirely. The idea of a prosperous work force based on a vibrant local economy to underpin “the American Dream got lost in the race to maximize corporate profits.How come you donot talk about how walmart under pay there workers and the taxpayers foot there medical benfits?But as I always say to the union haters.When are you going to give up the benfits that the union won for also the non union memebers.

Unions Gave Us The Weekend.

Unions Gave Us Fair Wages And Relative Income Equality

Unions Helped End Child Labor

Unions Won Widespread Employer-Based Health Coverage

Unions Spearheaded The Fight For The Family And Medical Leave Act

P.S. My bad those states that do not have union workers have lower wages and fewer benefits.And If my memory is right,It was Private Wall Street Companies Caused The Financial Crisis not unions.Can you spell koch brothers.

posted by: donvincent on December 28, 2012  2:00pm

The “carrot to complement the stick” is already there in the Housing Authority requirements; “Applicants who have committed a misdemeanor offense in the past three years, or a felony in the past 10 years, are not eligible for public housing.” Those are the requirements or “carrots”. Stay out of trouble and you’re eligible. Those who have made a decision to stay out of trouble are now penalized as are those who may have faltered in the past but have been on the straight and narrow.

These requirements also serve the neighbors of those with subsidized housing. As someone who lives in a building with an allocated unit for subsidized rent, I want to know that these requirements are in place. Circumventing them, particularly for violent offenders, is a very bad idea. Gang violence and drugs tend to follow these folks around. Not only does this endanger neighbors, it’s also not great PR for the Housing Authority or HUD.

And since when do sex crimes trump murder, attempted murder, maiming, disfiguring, dismembering, castration, crucifixion, immolation, torture, hate crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide? Would you rather live next to guy got arrested for taking out his Johnson at the playground or a convicted serial killer with a basement full of torture devices he used on people he lured through Craigslist? Apparently, HUD doesn’t think you’ll mind.