The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

November 23, 2013

Charges will boot destitute residents

Woman evicted from public housing after accusations only

By Evamarie Socha
The Daily Item

SHAMOKIN — SHAMOKIN — A Northumberland County woman has turned in the keys to her city-run public housing in Shamokin after charges in Union County prompted her eviction from the Raspberry Hill complex where she lived.

The Shamokin Housing Authority, which operates Raspberry Hill, followed its eviction policy in that anyone merely charged with a crime, regardless of severity, cannot live in its properties.

The Shamokin woman was charged earlier this fall with assorted felonies and misdemeanors in Union County and has further court appearances there.

Property site manager Jona Diehl said the policy was in place when she began working at Raspberry Hill a year and a half ago. She said Friday the woman, who was released on bail in Union County, recently relinquished the keys to her residence.

The woman told The Daily Item earlier this month that while in jail, she was served with an eviction notice from her home after published news reports of her crime in Union County. Working with an advocate, she was able to get an extension on her home to find other arrangements, and was given until Dec. 8 to leave.

Ronald Miller, executive director of the Shamokin Housing Authority, was unavailable for comment Friday, as was the woman, whose new residence is unknown.

The cities of Shamokin and Sunbury are the only two municipalities in Northumberland County not under the county’s housing authority. Ed Christiano, executive director of the Northumberland County authority, said that’s an option everyone has by law.

“We cover everything but those two cities,” he said.

All housing authorities in Pennsylvania also may make their own rules and regulations, Christiano said.

However, they must comply with federal Fair Housing and state landlord/tenant laws.

“As long they’re not violating fair housing laws, their regulations supersede everything,” he said.

Northumberland County performs background checks on all applicants, Christiano said, including criminal history.

A drug conviction will typically keep someone from receiving county housing help. Charges alone will not keep someone out of county housing, he said.

Even then, “There is a process so someone can appeal” if an applicant thinks he has been treated unfairly, Christiano said, and usually an informal hearing is conducted on why the applicant was rejected.

In Union County, an eviction would depend on the nature of the crime, said Jere Engle, executive director of the county’s housing authority. Background checks are conducted on county Section 8 housing program applicants.

“If they have a felony, they don’t get in the program,” Engle said, but there are caveats. “If someone’s crime happened 30 years ago, for instance,” that won’t sink the applicant’s chances, he said.

“There are other things we look at.”

For about a year now, Union County has in place a Justice Bridge program, in which people with felony convictions in court-ordered re-entry-type programs can get housing assistance.