Housing Authority Director Praises Drug Policy

The U.S. Supreme Court may consider the legality of "zero tolerance" drug policies used by public housing authorities.

A case from California questions the fairness of evicting an elderly grandmother who claims she was unaware of her grandson's drug use. Many "zero tolerance" policies allow housing authorities to evict entire families for the drug use of a single family member.

A similar policy seems to be working quite well at the Biloxi Housing Authority.

Biloxi Housing Authority director, Edward Jagnandan, says the "no tolerance" drug policy has helped reduce drug problems at public housing properties.

"There was a concern and there was a problem. And we addressed it. I've got very good security investigators," explained Jagnandan as he walked the grounds of Oakwood Village.

The director says residents understand and support the "one strike and you're out" drug policy used by the Biloxi Housing Authority.

Jagnandan says keeping complexes like Oakwood Village safe and drug free is a top priority.

"It's been very effective in fact. Residents like it. Believe it or not, residents do like it. They understand that the housing authority means business. They understand the housing authority is very serious about it," Jagnandan said.

"I raised seven kids here a long time ago when it was West End Homes," Christine Combs said.  She's lived in Oakwood Village for the past year and says the "zero tolerance" drug policy seems to be working.

"As far as I know, yeah."

Those who choose to live in Biloxi public housing know all about the drug policy before they ever move in. Details of the "no tolerance" policy are outlined in the lease agreement and stressed during new resident orientation sessions.

James Moultrie appreciates the policy.  He's lived in Biloxi public housing for about two years.

"There ain't no drugs around here. Ain't no fighting going on here. It's just a peaceable neighborhood. And that's what I like," Moultrie said.

Edward Jagnandan has approved more than 100 drug related evictions since he became director in 1998. Although he stresses the policy is tough, he's also able to make exceptions for unusual circumstances.

"If it's a grand child that was involved in criminal activity and the grand child agrees, through the grand parents to move on and live somewhere else, and he's placed on the 'banned list,' we would allow the elderly family to remain," Jagnandan said.

The housing authority director and many residents say the policy is helping create safer neighborhoods.

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