Mass meth related evictions at public housing

by: Henry Rosoff Updated:

TACOMA, Wash. —

When Sarah Wood saw orange pieces of paper popping up on doors in her neighborhood she was pleasantly surprised.

"I'm happy about it because I have four kids, and sometimes I'm scared to even live here and let them play outside," Wood said.

Some of Wood's neighbors used their government granted public housing to make and use methamphetamine.

However, within the last year Tacoma Housing authority executive director Michael Mirra said his office has been aggressively checking for meth.

"We've tested maybe about 130 units, and I think about 70 or so tested positive," Mirra said.

To put those numbers in perspective: the THA owns 1400 housing units, most them in Wood's Salishan neighborhood on the east side of the city. Mirra said trained experts swab the apartments for signs of meth contamination if neighbors or property managers suspect there's a problem. Tests are also run whenever a unit is vacated.

Mirra said when signs of meth are found, tenants are forced out immediately. Contamination is so dangerous, tenants have to leave everything behind. Then the housing authority calls the health department, police and if kids are involved, child protective services.

Repairs to contaminated units can cost thousands of dollars, and usually taxpayers are on the hook for the money because even though the person who contaminated the unit is liable, it's not likely the money will be recovered from the drug user.

The whole situation has people like Ashylee Tillman posing a seemingly simple suggestion.

"Bottom line, people should be tested more for drugs," Tillman said.

Butl Mirra said he cannot do drug tests and he wouldn't want to.

"The law would not permit us to do that," Mirra said. "You would need probable cause, and we don't find that our population is more indicative of these types of problems than others."

Tacoma police backed up Mirra. They could not provide statistics until next week, but told KIRO 7 that they do not respond to more drug calls at housing authority properties than anywhere else in the city.