CLINTON — Government mandates don’t often make people happy. But one recent mandate has produced some good results for the local housing authority’s residents.
In December 2016, the federal agency Department of Housing and Urban Develoment (HUD), issued a final rule that all HUD subsidized public housing had to become smoke-free. The deadline for all public housing agencies to ban smoking was July 31, 2018, but Terrill Garland, executive director of the DeWitt County Housing Authority, thought it would be better to try to ease residents into the new policy.
On July 31, deadline day, Garland, staff and residents held a little celebration at Nixon Manor to mark the event. Residents in DeWitt County housing already had spent about 10 months conditioning themselves to the new, non-smoking atmosphere.
“I didn’t think it was fair to just suddenly begin this new policy,” Garland said.
And, she also decided to institute some flexibility into the plan by continuing to permit smoking outside the housing facilities.
The ban in general has actually helped some residents quit or cut down on their smoking, and the designated outside smoking areas has helped encourage and increase socializing among housing residents.
One Nixon Manor resident said she reduced her smoking from three packs of cigarettes a day to about a half a pack a day by trekking outside to the designated smoking area, in this case the gazebo located outside the front of the building.
Garland said the smoking ban, too, has resulted in more people at the building socializing at the gazebo.
Under the mandate, individual housing authorities were given the power to either ban smoking entirely on public housing grounds or permit an outside smoking area for residents. Garland said she felt by banning smoking entirely, including on the grounds outside, it would make it unreasonably difficult for people who needed public housing but were having a tough time kicking the habit.
So, she created the outdoor smoking areas and limits smoking to within 25 feet of the facilities. DeWitt Manor’s outdoor gazebo also serves as its designated smoking area.
Residents might have had some reservations when they first learned of the new policy, but residents who attended the July 31 event at Nixon Manor agreed overall it was a good thing.