Hoboken mom getting punished for son's crime?

Hoboken mom getting punished for son's crime?
Monday, August 28, 2006 Jersey Journal

HOBOKEN - Linda Grooms observed her son's 25th birthday last December by throwing him out of her $50-a-month public housing apartment, saying she was frustrated because he repeatedly failed to get a real job - and instead brashly flaunted his drug activity.

Weeks later Hoboken police arrested her son and charged him with possession of 99 bags of heroin. Police never linked Linda Grooms to her son's arrest, but since his name was still on the lease, Grooms was evicted from her apartment. She has a few more months to find a new home.

"I've never had any troubles here. I've raised four kids here, paid my rent on time, but none of that was taken into consideration. They just wanted me out of here," said Grooms, who has lived in the same unit for 31 years.

"I don't know where I'm going to go," she said.

Grooms's tale illustrates the complexity - and perhaps the pitfalls - of a rigid "one-strike" policy that makes little distinction between criminals and non-criminals while trying to protect residents whose quality of life is threatened by rabid crime.

"It's not easy," Hoboken Housing Authority Executive Director Bob DiVincent said.

"The commissioners have adopted a zero-tolerance policy. If we believe there is enough evidence to proceed to court, we do. I can guarantee the judge would not have put them out in the street if the evidence was not strong," he said.

Grooms, a daycare worker, claims that a week after she kicked her son out of the apartment she went to the Hoboken Housing Authority to try to get his name off the lease and was told that she had to provide evidence of his new address.

"We were not on good terms. They said I was just trying to avoid getting kicked out, and I was like, 'Yes, that's exactly what I am doing,'" Grooms said.

Soon after, her son was arrested, and that was followed by an eviction letter from the Housing Authority. A Superior Court judge upheld the eviction last week.

Police say her son gave his mother's address when he was arrested Jan. 27, and Housing Authority officials dispute that Grooms requested the removal of his name prior to his arrest.

Pending appeals, Grooms has until Jan. 15 to move. Although she doesn't know where she will land, she's sure it won't be in Hoboken, where a $400,000 condo is considered a bargain.

"I just can't afford to live anywhere else, and I didn't do anything wrong," she said.

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