An Invasion of Privacy?

by  Assistant Editor

There are many issues that lie buried behind the walls of public housing, but this is one that I wanted to shed a little light on. Many residents in the Raymond Hilliard Homes are feeling violated by the very thought of the Chicago Housing Authority and the development’s private management firm, Holsten Realty, wanting them to submit to a drug test in order to renew or receive a lease.
Recently, a few tenants handed me a new draft lease that read, “As a precondition to renewing this lease, landlord requires that all adult members (persons 18 and older) submit a urine sample for an analysis of such sample for non prescribed, prohibited controlled substances, by a qualified laboratory selected by the landlord.”

After reading this, I wanted to know what the Hilliard Homes Local Advisory Council president, Maner Jean Wiley, thought of a lease which requires her residents to pass a drug test. Wiley said, “I’m comfortable with it. After all, it will eliminate the drug problem that we have here. And when the new mixed income community comes, it will stay beautiful and drug free.”

I also called CHA spokesperson Kathryn Greenberg and asked her about the legalities of lease provisions that require residents of public housing to submit to a drug test.

Greenberg said, “I know that they have drug testing at North Town Village near Cabrini (referring to the new mixed-income community near Cabrini Green). Holsten also manages them.” Greenberg suggested that I call Jackie Taylor at Holsten Realty’s main office and ask her about the drug testing.

So I called Jackie Taylor at the main office and asked her about the legality of drug testing residents. Taylor said, “We have talked to numerous CHA lawyers that said that this can be done.”

Taylor went on to say, “People have an option to say ‘No’ to the drug test. But they also have the option to live elsewhere.”

I was still curious after talking to Taylor. So I called Adam Schwartz, staff counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union . I faxed him a copy of Hilliard’s renewal lease and asked him what he thought of drug testing the residents of Hillard Homes and North Town Village.

Schwartz said, “The ACLU feels that to ask anyone to take a drug test as a condition of receiving housing, whether they are from public housing such as Hilliard or from a mixed-income community such as North Town Village, is a direct violation of the Fourth Amendment (of the U.S. Constitution). It’s an invasion of privacy.”

One resident from Hilliard Homes who asked that her name not be used heard about the drug testing lease renewal and said, “I feel so violated. What is America coming to? Are they trying to say that people who have a drug problem shouldn’t have homes?

“They think that they have a homeless problem now. Just wait until they start checking for drugs in order to rent apartments.”

Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Categories: Uncategorized