In 2011, Melvin Furtick, who suffers from schizophrenia, missed two appointments to re-certify his Section 8 housing voucher because he was in jail for threatening his wife. As a result, the Boston Housing Authority terminated his housing assistance benefits.
In the 2011 incident, Furtick’s wife reported to the police that he had warned her, “I shot you once, and I blew the house up, and the third time will be a charm.” He had indeed shot her in 1969; and in 1970, he had blown up their house, for which Furtick spent seven years in prison.
Furtick suffers not only from schizophrenia but also from bipolar disorder and several physical ailments, and reportedly experienced hallucinations. After his arrest, he was held in custody at Middleton Jail; in December 2011, he was sentenced to six months in jail and 15 months of probation.
During this time, the Boston Housing Authority (BHA) sent him two notices of an annual re-certification meeting for his Section 8 housing voucher, which he had held for 30 years. The meetings were to be held in November and December, but Furtick, now 64, never saw either notice while he was in jail.
Section 8 housing vouchers provide low-income tenants with subsidies to make “market rate” rent, paid for with funds from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Because Furtick missed the certification renewal meetings, his Section 8 subsidy was withdrawn, and he was soon unable to pay rent. By the time he was released from custody, the locks on his apartment had been changed.
Furtick’s landlord later claimed that the locks had been changed to protect his possessions, and that Furtick had not requested a new key.
The BHA has been unwilling to reinstate the Section 8 voucher, noting that “tens of thousands” of applicants are waiting for housing subsidies. In 2012, a Northeast Housing Court judge ordered that Furtick’s voucher be reinstated, a decision the BHA appealed.
Yesterday, the BHA’s refusal to reinstate the man’s voucher earned them harsh criticism from a Boston judge.
“The Boston Housing Authority terminated Furtick’s housing assistance benefits, a protected property interest, in violation of his due process rights,” wrote Justice Frederick Brown. “Such a result cannot be countenanced by any court of law.”
The court also noted that the agency was in such a “rush to recapture Furtick’s Section 8 voucher” that they entirely ignored his due process rights. The ruling upheld the initial move to reinstate the man’s vouchers.
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