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In June 2001 the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, now headed up by Secretary Ben Carson, banned lifetime registered sex offenders from subsidized public housing. (Only those tenants who were in subsidized housing before the law went into effect were “grandfathered” and allowed to remain in their homes.)
Did the Department of Housing and Urban Development have any understanding of the Sex Offender Registry when they established this law? Did they know anything about the registry, about who or why people end up on it for a lifetime? Were they advised by any of their researchers that it’s not necessarily the offense that gets you a lifetime on the registry, that it could just be a matter of the state you live in?
Reading through all of HUD’s documentation regarding their logic behind this law, it seems to have been based on three words “maximizing resident safety.” There was no documented empirical evidence of past problems in HUD housing caused specifically by lifetime registrants. No, someone in HUD falsely assumed, as so many do, that all lifetime registrants must be dangerous predators or they wouldn’t be on a registry. That everyone’s safety was at risk if a lifetime registrant lived in HUD housing. The law was conceived out of assumptions rather than facts.
That reason and that reason alone, seems to have been enough for HUD to ban lifetime registrants from obtaining HUD housing.
The discriminatory issue of prohibitive housing for registered sex offenders is playing out in Strong, Maine. The townspeople, minus flaming torches and pitch-forks, want to prohibit registrants from residing in certain areas of their town. The ruckus came to the forefront when ” a group of people” or as I prefer to put it, “busybodies who stirred up a hysterical mob mentality,” notified the town officials that there was a “lifetime registrant” in their midst and he was living right next to an elementary school.
Before I continue, let me just say that this registrants’s offense was in 1987. He’d served his sentence and his only requirement by law was to notify the local law enforcement agency of his residential address. Other than that, he’s free to live where he wants in that particular town.
There is no law or HUD regulation that can require this fellow to be either evicted or to have his subsidy terminated. (A small win for our side).
Five years ago the County Sheriff’s office notified the school principle of this convicted lifetime registrant lived in the vicinity. A photo of the registrant was posted in the local post office. (Now correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t those photos hanging on the post office wall usually WANTED POSTERS? You know, for people who are currently WANTED)? This gentleman wasn’t wanted for anything, nor had he committed any new offense. So why was a poster with his photo hanging in the post office? Are there pictures of local adulterers, drunk drivers and spousal abusers hanging there as well? Isn’t that a bit discriminatory? The sheriff’s office had also notified the HUD housing complex’s manager of this gentleman’s registry status. (Fortunately the police in this town are no longer allowed to go door to door to notify all the surrounding residents of their neighbor’s registry status. (Another small win)
Years ago background checks weren’t the norm in a lot of USDA funded Rural Development housing complexes. Back then the process was much simpler, applications were filled out, maybe the box for “any criminal offenses” got checked, maybe it didn’t. The government left the screening process of prospective tenants and management of these properties to management companies. If the complex management OK’d the application folks were given housing. If there were no problems and no complaints, no busybodies stirring the pot, things seemed to work out just fine for everyone.
Today governmental subsidized housing often requires extensive background checks. Registrants are required to abide by restrictions on local maps that prevent them from living and working in certain areas.
When it comes to housing, these restrictions force many registrants into homelessness. Federal, state and local governments don’t acknowledge any obligation in assisting sex offenders in locating safe or stable housing once they are released from jail or prison. In Florida, they ban them from shelters during emergency evacuations, then force registrants out of the under-the-bridge or behind the warehouse tent cities they build when they can’t find any other housing options.
Unless you are a lifetime registrant that was “grandfathered” into a Department of Housing and Rural Development subsidized housing complex, your government has left you out in the cold. You are not considered a citizen worthy of their housing assistance even though you pay taxes to the government like everyone else.
In their effort to exclude “dangerous sex offenders” from public housing, HUD’s law now prevents anyone subject to lifetime registry from obtaining public housing. Does HUD know that some states have lifetime registry for everyone, no matter how benign your offense? You could have peed in public or had consensual teenage sex with a girlfriend or boyfriend who may have been just a year younger than you. Benign offenses, but enough to put you on a registry for life. While it might be reasonable to want to protect children from violent, sexual predators, not everyone on the registry, even the lifetime registry, has or ever will pose a danger to children, much less a lifelong danger. The Department of Housing and Urban Development doesn’t seem to care that you’ve served your time for whatever offense you were accused of, that you’re now a hard-working, tax-paying citizen that needs and has the right to some government assistance to put a roof over your head and that of your family, just like any other tax-paying citizen. They have closed their eyes and their minds to the fact that they are discriminating against one particular faction of the population, registrants. And they think it’s OK.
I want to know why?
The Mission statement of HUD is as follows :
HUD’s mission is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD is working to strengthen the housing market, to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes; utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination and transform the way HUD does business.
So, Dr. Ben Carson/Secretary of HUD/Renowned Pediatric Neurosurgeon I ask you-
Why does HUD discriminate and exclude all lifetime registrants from subsidized housing? People who have already paid their debt to society. People who are trying to reintegrate back into society. People with families who need housing just as much as anyone else. People who are not dangerous and have extremely low rates of re-offending.
As a physician, you took the The Hippocratic Oath which stipulates that doctors “treat sick human beings whose illness may affect not only the individual but their family and their economic stability.” The oath goes on to require physicians to “remain a member of society with special obligations to all fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirmed.”
With all due respect Dr. Carson, registrants are your fellow human beings, many are receiving medical and or mental health treatment, if directed have been through sex offender treatment, they and their families need housing.
Why aren’t you doing anything about this social injustice?
Is HUD’s Mission Statement and the Hippocratic Oath you swore to, not worth the paper they’re written on?
We, the registrants of this country, deserve answers and we deserve fair housing.