Using the authority given to them by HUD, PHAs have adopted a variety of definitions, graphs, and matrices to guide staff evaluating applicants with criminal records. All too often, however, the criteria they have adopted are unduly broad, failing to provide any guidance on how to determine when ex-offenders or people with arrest records pose a risk to other tenants and when they do not, and which crimes warrant particular scrutiny. In addition, the periods of time during which applicants with criminal records are excluded are often unreasonably long. The impact of existing criteria is enhanced because most PHAs do not conduct an individualized assessment or consider evidence of rehabilitation or mitigation before rejecting an applicant. They have, in effect, adopted misguided zero tolerance policies that arbitrarily exclude needy applicants from public housing.
In the United States, everyone is presumed innocent of a criminal offense unless guilt is established in a court of law. Nevertheless, HUD guidelines allow PHAs to reject applicants based solely on arrest records even if the charges were ultimately dropped, and many do just that.136
In our small random sample, nearly all of the PHA policies we reviewed give housing officials the authority to reject applicants simply on the basis of arrests.137 As best we could determine, the justification for using arrest records is that where theres smoke, theres fire. One official at the Pittsburgh Housing Authority reasoned it is a well-known fact that when charges are dropped, it does not mean that the person arrested was not guilty, because, he explained, [w]itnesses fail to show [and] judges wont continue [cases] forever.138
Some PHA officials do acknowledge that relying on arrest records as the determinant of housing eligibility is overly punitive. Arrests have much less weight, she told us. If authorities fail to prosecute, [denying them housing] seems pretty draconian to me. I give it weight only if [there are] so many arrests, and a conviction; it seems likely that they have a problem. Otherwise, I dont pay attention.139
Certainly there are cases where the nature and number of arrests may suggest reason for concern, but arrest information should not trigger an automatic denial. It would be reasonable, however, for PHAs to consider multiple arrests as one of the factors taken into consideration in an individualized evaluation of an application.
PHAs have adopted exclusionary policies that deny eligibility to applicants with even the most minor criminal backgrounds. Just about any offense will do, even if it bears scant relation to the likelihood the applicant will be a good tenant.141
Some PHAs exclude applicants guilty of minor misdemeanor offenses and even of infractions that do not even rise to the level of a misdemeanor. One PHA official in rural South Carolina told Human Rights Watch: Most of the people denied are denied for shoplifting charges, not paying for video rentals.142
Many of the women that Human Rights Watch spoke with had been denied because they had been charged with passing bad checkspaying for merchandise with personal checks when they did not have money in their bank accounts to cover the cost. Their rejections were not based on being poor credit risks but on the fact that they had criminal records.
A Pittsburgh social worker told Human Rights Watch about one twenty-nine-year-old African American woman with two children who had applied for housing through the Allegheny County Housing Authority and was denied because of a retail theft charge three or four years prior to her application.
She was the most peaceful person. She had stolen some chapstick, some small things from a downtown drug store. She lost custody of her children right around the time of the denial because she had no stable housing. . . . I can see where some people do have a problem, but you cant make those assumptions. We had not one bit of a problem with her. Shes not a threat to others.143
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania housing officials insisted to Human Rights Watch that they would be justified even in excluding jaywalkers and shoplifters. When Human Rights Watch asked how shoplifting posed a threat to existing public housing tenants, the director of housing occupancy said a shoplifter should not be admitted into a housing development because he would teach children his craft, e.g. how to stuff bags of potato chips into his jacket. He added:
This is a threat to the community; people who can influence the community, sit there on the stoop and teach kids how to commit crime. . . . There is a greater propensity for crime in public housing that wont happen in other communities. If you are a habitual shoplifter, that shoplifting can lead to anything else that seems to be prevalent in public housing.144
The logic in these explanations is questionable, especially where the relationship between the offense and responsible tenancy is remote. Moreover, they suggest an underlying punitive bias rather than a genuine public safety concern. For example, another Pittsburgh housing official told Human Rights Watch: People have to understand that there are consequences to their actions.145
New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) policy allows housing officials to deny an applicant housing for a period of two years following such violations as disorderly conduct and turnstile jumping (riding the subway without paying the fare). NYCHA officials, however, told Human Rights Watch that PHA staff evaluating the application would look at the totality of the information contained in the application. While public intoxication (a violation) and disorderly conduct, depending on the circumstances, may justify exclusion, fare evasion alone may not. NYCHAs Deputy General Counsel reasoned that a series of such violations could, however, indicate a future risk: If you constantly evade [paying the fare], you perhaps will not take lease obligations seriously.146
The American Bar Association (ABA) and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) have both recommended that to the extent prior offenses are used to impose collateral sanctions and what the ABA calls discretionary disqualifications, the disqualification should be particularly related to the offense[.]147 Similarly, the EEOC provided useful guidance to employers regarding the use of arrest records to screen prospective employees, and it is instructive by way of comparison with PHA practice. The EEOC advises employers to examine whether there is a business necessity for excluding those with arrest records in much the same way Human Rights Watch urges PHAs to examine whether there is a valid public safety reason for excluding those with criminal records:
The question addressed in this policy guidance is to what extent may arrest records be used in making employment decisions?" The Commission concludes that since the use of arrest records as an absolute bar to employment has a disparate impact on some protected groups, such records alone cannot be used to routinely exclude persons from employment. However, conduct which indicates unsuitability for a particular position is a basis for exclusion. Where it appears that the applicant or employee engaged in the conduct for which he was arrested and the conduct is job related and relatively recent, exclusion is justified.148
In addition to determining what sort of conduct is a sufficient basis for exclusion, PHAs also determine, for different categories of offense, the exclusion periodthe length of time applicants must have been crime free following such offenses before their housing applications can be accepted.
The exclusion periods appear to have been arbitrarily chosen, and are frequently excessively long. PHA officials could rarely provide us with an explanation for the particular length of any exclusion period nor could we discern any empirical explanation for the great variance in exclusion periods across the country; the differences appear simply to reflect philosophical and policy perspectives. The chart below offers a sense of the variance in exclusion periods and, more importantly, the remarkable length of some of them.
In New York City, for example, a person convicted of misdemeanor possession of marijuana and sentenced to six months probation would be ineligible for housing for five years. In Sarasota, Florida, a single drug misdemeanor renders a person ineligible for public housing for four years. In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, someone convicted of a violent felony can be ineligible for liferegardless of how exemplary the years following his crime had been. And applicants who have prior offenses in Austin, Texasno matter how minorare excluded by the city housing authority for seven years, and by the county housing authority for ten.
DNC Does not consider.
§ PHAs define serious felony differently, and include offenses such as murder, arson, kidnapping, domestic violence, aggravated assault, drugs, and child abuse in addition to the federally-mandated sex and methamphetamine offenses.
PHAs can consider applicants conduct regardless of when it occurred; the exclusion period is indefinite in duration.
Each misdemeanor nets a four year exclusion; hence, two misdemeanors renders an applicant ineligible for eight years; three would mean an applicant would not be eligible for twelve years from the date of completion of the last misdemeanor. Likewise with felonies: two felonies would render an applicant ineligible for fourteen years, and so on.
¥ HACP officials told Human Rights Watch that applicants with the most serious offenses had to have approval from a Criminal Activities Review Board (CARB) before being deemed eligible. They implied that it would be very difficult for someone with certain offenses to ever pass CARB review.
For drug-related offenses.
* In New York, exclusion periods begin upon completion of a sentence. For example, a person would be ineligible for housing for two years following completion of a sentence of one-year probation for a misdemeanor offense, which could mean that a person is actually ineligible for housing for three years following the commission of a misdemeanor.
Kelli Dunn Howard, an attorney with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA) in Austin, told Human Rights Watch about a twenty-four-year-old African American woman who applied for public housing for herself, her eighty-year-old father, and the four children she cares fortwo of her own and two of her sisters, who is currently serving time in prison. In addition to caring for the children, the client attends college and does volunteer work.
The city housing authority denied her application in January 2004 because of simple assault and marijuana possession charges from six-and-a-half years prior to her application, offenses committed when she was eighteen. The client had pled guilty to both offenses, received probation, and then the charges were dismissed. Howard told Human Rights Watch that her client said, If it were just me, I could afford the rent because Im working, but I cant if Im taking care of all these people.152
Not all PHAs arbitrarily set long periods of exclusion. Some housing officials recognize the absurdity of thinking that someone who has been arrest-free for a long period of time could be deemed a risk because of a remote criminal offense. We had one man apply, said a PHA official in rural South Carolina, he had an assault charge for domestic violence in 1983. Theres no reason not to house this person. If he had an ongoing problem, he would have a record. I mean, were talking twenty years now. Hes in his early fifties now.154 Another housing official told Human Rights Watch:
You have to impose rules in a fair way. . . . The felonies, the remoteness of the crime has to be taken into consideration. If its one or two years ago, you wonder. If its five or six, you shouldnt even consider it.155
HUD guidelines provide that: A criminal record should not automatically exclude an applicant from consideration. The PHA should determine whether the person would be a suitable tenant.157 When PHAs receive what HUD calls unfavorable information about an applicant, HUD advises them to consider the possibility of more favorable future conduct,158 and evaluate criminal background information on a case-by-case basis taking into consideration both the seriousness and remoteness of the criminal activity.159 HUD suggests that PHAs consider such mitigating circumstances as a record of rehabilitation as indicated by a report from parole officer or a social worker, or participation in a drug or alcohol treatment program.160
Despite these recommendations, PHAs typically automatically exclude anyone with a criminal record that falls into one of their designated categories and exclusionary periods without any individualized assessment.161 They exercise their discretion in only one directionto deny eligibility.
Rudy Vazmina, executive director of the Sarasota Housing Authority in Florida, explained his understanding of the discretion PHAs have to consider mitigating circumstances. We can have strict liability. We can also use discretion to look at the totality of the circumstances.162 Under no obligation to consider mitigation then, many PHAs have adopted strict liability exclusionary policies.
Jimmie Lacey, the director of public housing for the Housing Authority of the Birmingham District (HABD) told Human Rights Watch: Our goal is to screen people in, not screen people out. Its to our advantage to get residents in.163 But what we found by speaking with people who had dealt with HABD was quite different. If youve ever had much worse than a parking or a speeding ticket, theyll keep you out. Its a blanket policy, explained Kenneth Lay, managing attorney of Legal Services of Metro Birmingham.
They do nothing if we dont sue them. . . . Their policies are, whatever they can do [to keep people out], they will do. They make no exceptions. . . .They say, well, if we exercise discretion, someone will charge us with discrimination. . . . We generally dont win. They stick by their policy.164
A grant of clemency is designed to forgive[e] a person the criminal liability of his acts,165 but PHAs are not required to consider grants of clemency in evaluating public housing applications. The governor gave me clemency, said Elaine Bartlett. Nevertheless, after serving sixteen years in prison at the time of her parole, she was told she could not request a larger apartment for her family, because she had a felony conviction. The New York PHA manager reportedly told her: Youre not even supposed to be here. Be thankful youre here and be quiet.166
Transitional housing providers who try to assist their clients in obtaining permanent housing have witnessed firsthand the refusal of some PHAs to accept applications without any assessment of rehabilitation or the actual risks posed.
[C.] was on the waiting list for six months, a legal service provider from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania told Human Rights Watch about a client who had been denied:
She was perfect for public housing. She had a small income . . . She was more devastated by the process than by the final answer, they kept asking her to come back and bring them this and bring them that. . . . She had drug possession charges in the past, and most recently, bad checks. . . . She was interviewed and denied, but we were surprised because we were working with housing trying to advocate for her, but it didnt help. . . . She was not a danger to anyone.167
They add up the years and thats it, legal service providers said. Efforts at rehabilitation are in their guidelines, but it doesnt seem to matter.168
An individualized review of an application typically occurs, if at all, during a hearing challenging a rejection. Indeed it seems that PHAs may practice a reject first, ask questions later approach to applicants. For example, according to local legal service providers, the Austin, Texas housing authority uses a shotgun approach. They reject everybody, and then it is up to the applicant to request a hearing. The housing authority, according to TRLA staff, wants to see how bad they want it.170 An attorney for Neighborhood Legal Services in Pittsburgh explained: The city housing authority, I think, sees the grievance hearing as their exercise of discretion. Allowing them [applicants] to have one satisfies the requirement.171
Similarly, a legal service provider in Portland told Human Rights Watch that the position of the Housing Authority of Portland was that they would be strict on the first cut, and then the appeals officer can look at mitigation.172 The Oregon Law Center urged the PHA to include some consideration of mitigation in the first cut, but it was unable to persuade the housing authority to change its practice. Why should all these people have to go to the hearing when most of them are going to get in if they ask for a hearing?173 Indeed, our research suggests that a high proportion of those who seek a hearing after a rejection will in fact be granted admission. But the burden is on the applicant to seek review of the denial, and to be able to negotiate the appeal process simply to receive the individualized consideration that HUD guidelines already encourage.
Despite the plain language of HUD guidelines urging careful exercise of discretion to make individual housing application decisions, housing officials across the country shared the sense that they had little such discretion, and many painted a picture of HUD officials peering over their shoulders as they made decisions about whose applications to approve. There is a growing realization that everyone needs somewhere to go, but were so limited by what we can and cannot do by federal regulations, one PHA official told Human Rights Watch.174 We dont have much policy leeway,175 another official said. Were stuck with HUD regulations, said yet another housing official in Pennsylvania:
I dont like a fixed rule of ineligibility, I dont think thats fair. . . . You cant predict what may or may not happen. . . . The federal government makes it very awkward. Its expensive [for us], and there are privacy concerns [for the applicants]. . . . If you paid your dues, it stays with you. Its kind of strange. Youre denied the privilege of housing, or the right to apply for it. Its not a fair process.176
When pressed to explain how HUD restricted their discretion, housing officials could do no more than make vague references to the law or to HUD oversight. They were not able to give us any specific examples or show us any documents from HUD raising questions about, or even indicating familiarity with their specific admissions policies or criteria.
Indeed, during the research for this report, we found no evidence that HUD makes an effort to ascertain how PHAs exercise their discretion in the admissions process. Human Rights Watch made numerous efforts to hold meetings with HUD officials to discuss their review of PHA policies, among other matters. HUD officials consistently refused to meet with us.
On March 17, 2004, Human Rights Watch submitted a list of written questions to HUD concerning specific PHA practices and policies we had uncovered during our research that appeared to be inconsistent with federal policies. In a written response, the departments deputy assistant secretary in the Office of Public Housing and Voucher Programs refused to address the specific examples we had raised. He explained:
HUDs obligation in its oversight responsibilities extends to requiring that PHAs follow all applicable federal laws, HUD regulations, and all applicable state and local codes and laws. As to compliance with all applicable laws and regulation, PHAs exercise their own discretion in the day-to-day management of PHAs. It is the stated policy of HUD not to micromanage competent and successful PHAs as to program administration and decision-making. . . . Only where a PHA fails to comply with all applicable laws, usually in extreme circumstances, will HUD undertake the day-to-day management decisions of a PHA. It is only in this rare situation, where HUD is acting as the landlord, and substituting its own judgment for that of the PHA, that HUD would have actual knowledge of the specifics regarding the exercise of PHA discretion, absent a complaint made directly to HUD.177
In fact, Human Rights Watch reviewed HUDs annual scoring of PHA performance and found that only one point out of a possible one hundred was related to a PHAs one strike policy. HUD officials speaking off the record and many local PHA officials told Human Rights Watch that HUD never reviewed the contents of a PHAs policy, but rather simply checked to ensure that it had one. Auditors reportedly never examine the content of the policies. Our lenient policies dont impact our HUD evaluations, one housing official told Human Rights Watch. You just need to have a policy, really, thats all they look for. Despite the apparent lack of HUD scrutiny, however, PHAs consistently maintained to Human Rights Watch that they had adopted strict exclusionary policies because of HUD oversight.
Many legal service providers told Human Rights Watch that they did not deal with public housing admissions cases. Some offices, however, have been very active in challenging local PHA policies. While legal service offices commonly challenge PHA practices on behalf of individual clients, at least two legal service organizations have sought class-wide relief for applicants denied under blanket policies.178 Both cases were resolved, with relief to individual plaintiffs and PHA adoption of more carefully tailored admissions criteria.
A consent order entered following a challenge brought by the Atlanta Legal Aid Society is the most sweeping relief we found.179 The unpublished consent decree requires the PHA to limit their review of criminal convictions to those obtained within five years of the application, consider only convictions and not arrests, and to take into consideration evidence of rehabilitation. Legal Aid attorneys elsewhere in Georgia have used the order to pressure other PHAs to amend their policies accordingly.180
Attorneys at the Homeless Persons Representation Project (HPRP) in Baltimore undertook a lengthy process of pressuring the PHA to revise its zero-tolerance blanket policies. Threatened with a federal lawsuit similar to the Atlanta case, the PHA recently adopted revised guidelines and attorneys continue to monitor the PHAs adherence to the new policy.181
There are very few published decisions on individual admissions cases. A challenge brought by Pine Tree Legal Services in Maine, however, resulted in a thoughtful decision by the Maine Superior Court.182 The local PHA had adopted a policy excluding anyone with a criminal record for violent activity at any time in the past. Ruling on a challenge by an applicant who had been convicted of a sex offense fifteen years prior to his application, the court found that the housing authority never considered the time that had passed since his conviction. The court rejected the PHAs claim that admissions are entirely discretionary and that the housing authority is free to establish standards which may be more stringent than those promulgated by HUD.183 The court reasoned:
The HUD regulations do not place an unreasonable burden upon the housing authority by requiring that it undertake an inquiry into the reasonableness of the time which has passed since the date of the acts. Such inquiry would presumably include looking into the circumstances of the conviction, what has transpired since the conviction, and the amount of time which has passed since the conviction. There is no bright-line standard for a reasonable amount of time. By accepting a zero-tolerance policy regarding convicted individuals, the Respondents divert from the clear intent of the policy reflected in the HUD regulations. The regulations unambiguously mandate a consideration of whether a reasonable time has passed since the conviction (thus presumably rendering the applicant non-dangerous to other residents). In the absence of such a consideration and finding, the Respondent has circumvented this necessary analysis.184
 HUD, Public Housing Occupancy Handbook, Chapter 4: Suitability for Tenancy, 4-1(b)(10), p. 4-3.
A report by the Legal Action Center shows that over half of the largest PHAs in each state deny applicants on the basis of arrest records that do not lead to conviction. Legal Action Center, Whats the Law, in After Prison: Roadblocks to Re-Entry. Some PHAs, however, placed applications on hold pending the resolution of criminal charges. Human Rights Watch interview with Bernie Jay Meyers, executive director, Williamsport Housing Authority, Williamsport , Pennsylvania, December 1, 2003.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Anthony Williams, director of housing occupancy, Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, January 27, 2004.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Carol Coley, hearing officer, Housing Authority of Portland, Portland, Oregon, August 1, 2003.
 Human Rights Watch interview with P.C., Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, January 31, 2004.
 See John J. Ammann, Criminal Records of the Poor and Their Effects on Eligibility for Affordable Housing, Journal of Affordable Housing, Vol. 9, No. 3, Spring 2000. Ammann provides several case studies of low-income people unable to obtain housing assistance because of outstanding warrants for such offenses as public transit violations.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Laurie Meadows, public housing manager, Newberry Housing Authority, Lawrence, South Carolina, December 16, 2003.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Renee DIppolito, case manager supervisor, Bethlehem Haven, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, January 30, 2004.
 Human Rights Watch interview with an official from the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, January 27, 2004.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Henry Shoenfeld, deputy general counsel for civil litigation, New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), New York, New York, May 25, 2004. See, e.g., Faison v. New York City Housing Authority, Order of N.Y. Co. Supreme Court, June 1, 2000 (Goodman, J.), reversed by 283 A.D.2d 353, 354, 726 N.Y.S.2d 23, 24 (1st Dept 2001).
 ABA Standards.
 Equal Employment Opportunities Commission Notice, Policy Guidance on the Consideration of Arrest Records in Employment Decisions Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, N-91 5.061 9/7/90, available online at: http://www.hirecheck.com/downloads/pdf/ComplianceAssistance/EEOCNOFRAME.pdf, accessed on June 7, 2004 (EEOC Notice).
 Pindua is a Swahili verb meaning to change direction, or turn around.
 Human Rights Watch interviews with S.W. and Christina Batesmore, Project Pindua, Mon Yough Community Services, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, January 28, 2004.
 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Sheila Fauntleroy, Project Pindua, Mon Yough Community Services, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, April 16, 2004.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Kelli Dunn Howard, staff attorney, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Austin, Texas, February 11, 2004.
 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Dorothy Gaines, March 30, 2004; See also, Chuck Armsbury, Sr., The November Coalition, Dorothy Gaines, Guilt by Association, available online at: http://www.november.org/thewall/cases/gaines-d/gaines-d.html, accessed on July 6, 2004; Clinton Grants Pardon to 59, Miami Herald, December 23, 2000.
 Interview with Laurie Meadows, December 16, 2003.
 Interview with Bernie Jay Meyers, December 1, 2003.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Adrienne Wolnoha, Community Human Services Corporation, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, January 29, 2004.
 HUD, Public Housing Occupancy Handbook, Directive No. 7465.1 Rev.-2, Chapter 4, 4-3(b)(11).
 Ibid., Chapter 4, 4-3(a).
 HUD, One Strike and Youre Out Policy.
 HUD, Public Housing Occupancy Handbook, Chapter 4, 4-3(b)(1)(a) & (b).
 Ibid., Chapter 4, 4-3(b)(11).
 Human Rights Watch interview with Rudy Vazmina, executive director, Sarasota Housing Authority, Sarasota, Florida, March 20, 2003.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Jimmie Lacey, director of housing management, HABD, Birmingham, Alabama, December 10, 2003.
 Telephone interview with Kenneth Lay, December 12, 2003. The director of one of the largest shelters in Birmingham for homeless men claimed: This housing authority is one of the worst housing authorities Ive ever dealt with . . . they wont bend their rules. In my experience, they dont make exceptions. Human Rights Watch interview with Steve Freeman, executive director, The Old Firehouse Shelter, Birmingham, Alabama, December 11, 2003.
 Clemency is a general term that encompasses pardon, amnesty, and commutation. Steven H. Gifis, Barrons Law Dictionary, 3rd ed. (Hauppauge: Barrons Educational Series, 1991). See, e.g., Herrera v. Collins, 506 U.S. 390, 412 (1993).
 Gonnerman, Life on the Outside, p. 232.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Doreen White, housing and employment specialist, Transitional Living Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, December 1, 2003.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Meghan Tighe, staff attorney, Neighborhood Legal Services, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, January 27, 2004.
 Human Rights Watch interview with S.C., New York, New York, November 3, 2003.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Virginia Rojo Holland, paralegal, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, February 11, 2004. At the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh, for example, all applications are initially denied if the criminal background check reveals prior criminal activity, and the applicant is given an opportunity to appeal. One PHA official said: For the sake of integrity, We dont believe we should have that discretion. Another added: We wanted to objectify a very subjective process, so we believe a hearing officer should look at it [because] we have family and friends of employees coming into the office. . . .They can appeal it if they like. Human Rights Watch interviews with Suman Jaswal and Anthony Williams, Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, January 27, 2004. The Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) denies applicants who had convictions more than three years prior to the application, and does an individualized determination only if applicants ask for a hearing. Human Rights Watch interview with Duane Browder, vice chairman, Board of Commissioners, CMHA, Cleveland, Ohio, May 8, 2003.
 Human Rights Watch interview with a lawyer from Neighborhood Legal Services, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, January 27, 2004.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Mickey Ryan, Oregon Law Center, Portland, Oregon, August 7, 2003.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Anthony E. Woods, executive director, Greene County Housing Authority, Eutaw, Alabama, December 12, 2003.
 Interview with Esther Keosababian, February 6, 2004.
 Interview with Bernie Jay Meyers, December 1, 2003.
 Letter to Human Rights Watch from William O. Russell, III, deputy assistant secretary, Office of Public Housing and Voucher Programs, HUD, April 5, 2004.
 Legal service agencies that receive funding from the federal government are not permitted to file class action lawsuits to obtain relief for a group of applicants. Federal law states: "None of the funds appropriated . . . to the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) may be used to provide financial assistance to any person or entity . . . that initiates or participates in a class action suit." Omnibus Consolidated Rescissions and Appropriations Act of 1996, Pub. L. No. 104-134, § 504(a)(7), 110 Stat. 1321, 50 (1996) (codified at 29 U.S.C. 2996e(d)(5)). This restriction has been re-imposed in each subsequent year's LSC budget allocation. Recipients are prohibited from initiating or participating in any class action. 45 C.F.R. § 1617.3 (2004). The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has suggested that [i]n some legal systems it would also be appropriate to explore the possibility of facilitating class action suits in situations involving significantly increased levels of homelessness. Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, General Comment No. 4, para. 17.
 Consent decree in Bonner v. Housing Authority of Atlanta, Georgia, No. 1:94-CV-376-MHS (N.D. Ga. October 11, 1995).
 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Dennis Goldstein, attorney, Atlanta Legal Aid Society, June 1, 2004.
 Human Rights Watch e-mail correspondence with Carolyn Johnson, staff attorney, Homeless Persons Representation Project, Baltimore, Maryland, to Human Rights Watch, May 21, 2004; Complaint on file with Human Rights Watch. Baltimore Housing Authority adopted a chart developed by the HPRP to guide staff in making admissions decisions.
 Ouellette v. Housing Authority of the City of Old Town, Docket No. AP-03-17, 2004 Me. Super. LEXIS 60 (March 12, 2004). Human Rights Watch asked a HUD spokesperson to comment on how, absent a lawsuit like the one brought on behalf of Ouellette, HUD would become aware of PHA policies and practices that are in conflict with federal law and HUD guidelines. She responded that HUD would not be aware unless an applicant brought an issue to the agencys attention. Its about making applicants more aware of their rights, she said, I dont know who it would be [who would do that], its not our responsibility. . . Its about making ex-offenders more aware of their rights. I dont know how I can respond to that, the policy is there and what HUDs intent is [is clear], an applicant can go to the legal services. Human Rights Watch telephone interview with HUD spokesperson Donna White, May 21, 2004. When asked how applicants would know their rights if they did not have access to an attorney, she responded: I really dont know.
 Ouellette, *3-4. Because the plaintiff was convicted of the sex offense prior to the establishment of the states sex offender registry, he was not required to register and therefore was not subject to the federal ban.
 Ouellette, *4-5.