Open Government Project
A Government Watchdog Group
State of Texas
City of Galveston
Public Interest Groups
Back to Public Housing?
by David Stanowski
19 July 2011
You can't make this stuff up!
The Galveston Housing Authority, that has long been plagued with its inability to keep felons off its properties, when they were forbidden to be there, is now faced with a President and HUD Secretary who want to welcome them back! Can you imagine what that could mean?
"The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has not allowed ex-offenders to move in with family members after they have been released from prison.
But in a recent letter from Shaun Donovan, Secretary of HUD to Executive Directors of Public Housing Authority’s (PHA) the agency has reversed this discriminatory policy and now supports the notion of ex-offenders living in government housing with relatives."
HUD reverses decision and allows ex-offenders to live in public housing
In the Executive Summary of their 2008 5-Year Plan, GHA Executive Director, Harish Krishnarao, said, "The struggle to maintain crime-free properties in Galveston requires constant vigilance." "Unfortunately, without a comprehensive policing program, problems that were once dealt with reocur as felons return to their previous neighborhoods from prison."
A GOGP study of crime data from 01 September 2007 to 01 September 2008 (i.e. Before Hurricane Ike) found that 21.28% of all case reports (crimes) in the City of Galveston were for the areas containing and surrounding the four Housing Projects.
The total population of these four facilities was approximately 1,252, or 2.20% of the pre-Ike population of the City. It should be clear that with 21.28% of the case reports, the areas containing and surrounding the four Housing Projects used a highly disproportionate share of police resources and expenses!
What could the President and HUD Secretary be thinking when they issue a nationwide invitation for ex-cons to return to their families in Public Housing? Obviously, it is a feel-good social experiment that they can try on our neighborhoods while their families live a safe distance away.
In his 17 June 2011 letter, Secretary Donovan said, "...the majority of people released from prison intend to return to their families, many of whom live in public or other subsidized housing." That's not much of an endorsement for how local housing authorities screen and manage their tenants, which is what triggered the comments by Harish Krishnarao about GHA's inability to keep felons from returning home to their properties!
He goes on to say, "The Department encourages you to allow ex-offenders to rejoin their families in the Public Housing or Housing Choice Voucher programs (i.e. Section 8),..." Why should any city want to participate in this social experiment?
The Secretary ends with, "We are grateful that you will join us in welcoming these deserving citizens back to their communities." No comment needed!
Ironically, as HUD is lowering the bar by encouraging local housing authorities to welcome back ex-cons, the Cincinnatti NAACP wanted to raise the bar last year and require all housing authority commissioners to be subject to the same criminal back ground checks as their tenants!
"The Cincinnati NAACP would like to know if any CMHA Board Members have a criminal past or specifically a felony. This is important because CMHA screens residents based on their criminal records. "How can CMHA screen residents based on a criminal record but not know if individual board members have a criminal past and/or a criminal record," Smitherman says."
Corruption Within the CMHA Board
1. Will GHA be participating in the "welcome back program"? If not, how do we know that the policy won't be changed in the future? If they plan to join the experiment, what kind offenses will be acceptable?
2. Who will make these decisions for the mixed-income development, GHA or McCormack Baron Salazar?
3. Is GHA and/or McCormack Baron Salazar going to be forced to take back all of the 569 families even if some have criminal records due to the desires of Lone Star Legal Aid?