It may come as a surprise how cumbersome it is to find the total number of subsidized housing units there are in Sikeston. A little homework over the past week has arrived at one number but I'm less than convinced that we have an accurate picture concerning the degree of subsidized housing units in our community. You would think it's an easy task. It is not.
For starters, the Sikeston Housing Authority has responsibility over 670 subsidized units including housing complexes and Section 8 homes. But there are also at least 245 additional subsidized units that fall into another category not under the responsibility of the Housing Authority. That means that at least 915 housing units in Sikeston are subsidized by taxpayers to provide housing for the low income and elderly.
Is that too many for a community our size? Well it depends on who you ask. Federal officials obviously believe we have about the right number of low-income housing units. But many local officials will give a far different opinion. Regardless, that's where we sit today.
I've said all of that to discuss a ruling by the United States Supreme Court recently that could be a blueprint for crime reduction here. At least as far as the Sikeston Housing Authority is concerned, a one-strike rule is in effect. That rule says that if you violate the laws concerning drugs or violence, there is no tolerance and you can and will be removed from the subsidized housing unit immediately. The Housing Authority has indeed implemented this rule and has used it to remove residents, though the number is fairly small given the number of residents residing in subsidized housing.
But the high court ruled last week that entire neighborhoods with a history of crime can be ruled off-limits to visitors who have a criminal past. That ruling, if implemented here for example, could completely change the landscape in some neighborhoods of Sikeston.
What if, for example, housing officials decided to implement the no-visitor rule and prohibited all those with any criminal history from visiting within a specific neighborhood boundary? Well the cries from the residents would be loud and clear. But - and this is pure speculation - if some criminal elements were prohibited from visiting these neighborhoods, perhaps the crime rate would plummet and some criminal elements might just decide to ply their trade elsewhere.
Granted, this is a radical notion. Stopping visitors with a criminal past from visiting a Section 8 resident is one thing, To rule entire neighborhoods off-limits is another.
But we may be in a position where radical solutions are needed. And they may be needed sooner than later.