meth and homelessness
By Vi Waln
Meth controls many lives on my reservation. There are stories circulating about small children abandoned at home without food or supervision while their parents are off on a meth binge. Unfortunately, there are many families currently living with active meth users.
Answers to questions surrounding the social problems of dealing with a skyrocketing meth epidemic are hard to come by. Today, there are many meth addicts who don’t care what happens to their family. The lack of treatment facilities often means a meth addict will stop using drugs only when they are arrested and jailed.
Tenants living in a tribal housing unit, risk eviction when family members or others actively use meth in the home. In fact, many families have already sacrificed their housing unit because of meth use. On the Rosebud Reservation, a Tribal resolution gives SWA (Sicangu Wicoti Awayankapi) the authority to evict tenants when a housing unit is contaminated with a meth level of 2.0 or higher.
There are really no safe levels when it comes to methamphetamine contamination in a house. People put their health at serious risk when they use meth. Dangerous health problems, as well as homelessness, will likely become reality when you live in the same home as a meth addict.
For instance, during the first quarter of 2017 (1/9/17-4/21/17), SWA tested 94 housing units for meth contamination. Of the entire 94 homes tested on the Rosebud Reservation during that time, only 13 showed no level of meth contamination.
There were 81 houses that tested positive for meth, indicating someone was or had been using the drug in the home. Consequently, 42 of those positive tests showed a level of meth contamination at the 2.0 threshold or higher. According to the policy, those 42 tenants were evicted from their homes by SWA.
Meth contamination in the remaining 39 of the positive tests on SWA units was below the 2.0 threshold. In these cases, the home is remediated through cleaning and possible replacement of furniture, fiberglass or furnace. Through remediation and a test every 90 days, a tenant can keep the unit if the level drops to 0 after several cleanings.
In some of these cases, the tenants might remain in the unit. Tenants must cooperate with SWA officials to retain the home. Elders who are eligible could be placed in an apartment complex during remediation.
Meth related housing evictions are devastating families. Our overcrowded homes are taxed even more when additional family members are taken in because they have nowhere else to go. This situation is also stressful because there are families who won’t turn their relatives away. Yet, when a housing tenant takes in relatives removed from a meth contaminated home, they also risk eviction for violating their lease agreement.
Elders and children are the most at risk for homelessness and health problems. For instance, there was a local case where small children tested positive for meth and had to be decontaminated by medical providers. These children were removed from a housing unit with a meth contamination level of 34.
It’s up to all of us to do our part. Please take the necessary steps to protect your family from meth addicts. Report any suspected meth activity to law enforcement officials at (605) 747-2266 or 747-5928.
The Rosebud Sioux Tribe Law Enforcement Services shares information about meth related arrests they make via social media. Many of us appreciate the continued work of law enforcement officials in the quest to remove meth from our homelands. You can find their Facebook page by searching @RosebudPoliceDepartment.