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Seeking Shelter: A Personal Perspective on the Section 8 Housing Journey

The housing crisis is undoubtedly real. When I mention housing, I'm referring to section 8 and public programs for low-income individuals to secure housing. Today, I want to share my own story. I was fortunate to have a supportive living coach who had my information and always looked for section 8 openings. In early March 2015, she informed me that she had entered my name into a lottery for potential housing selection. Yes, a lottery. In my view, no one should have to rely on luck in such a critical matter.

I had waited for years for the list to even open for section 8 applications. Previous attempts to join had been in vain due to my circumstances, including moving a total of 30 times due to being in foster care and living on meager monthly incomes ranging from $600 to $700. I consistently needed roommates to make ends meet.

Two weeks later, on March 15, 2015, my living coach delivered the news that I was chosen from a pool of 1,000 applicants out of over 7,000 for section 8 that year. One contributing factor to my selection was my disability, which granted me priority. While thrilled, I soon realized the journey was far from over. I was ranked 840 out of 1,000, and the next step was to wait for my name to rise to the top. This process took an additional three years. Eventually reaching the top, I was then informed that funding was required for them to issue me a voucher.

During this waiting period, my roommate, who owned the house that I was living in, unexpectedly decided to sell, leaving me with no place to go. An aide who cared for me extended an offer to stay with her temporarily. Moving in with her on October 1, 2015, I was fortunate to reside with her until July 2016.  I then moved to Orlando and finally found affordable student housing. However, this living situation came with its own challenges. Younger roommates disrespected me, smoked, and affected my health, leading to me being kicked out for involving the police about my well-being. Surprisingly, this eviction turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

In September 2018, I moved into a month-to-month arrangement, and shortly thereafter received a letter from section 8 indicating that they were ready to provide me with a voucher. A meeting on November 9, 2018, was scheduled. Following the meeting, I returned to Orlando to search for housing in South Florida, where my voucher was valid. This decision upset my Orlando landlord, resulting in me losing my security deposit and needing to vacate by December 1. Eventually, I found my current apartment, which wouldn't be ready until January 15, 2019. A close friend allowed me to stay with them until then.

After these transitional months, I've been living contentedly in my current space. I never anticipated enduring so much to secure a decent home and maintain stability. Now, almost five years later, I can reflect on this challenging journey with a sense of accomplishment and happiness. No one should ever have to have that amount of red tape just to have a roof over their head. With my story shared, I'd like to shed light on the difficulty of obtaining section 8.

As per the Center on Budget Policy and Priorities findings, the 2019 American Housing Survey revealed notable statistics regarding housing assistance distribution. Approximately 75% of applicants remained unassisted, while 15% received aid from alternative sources. A mere 10% were recipients of the Housing Choice Voucher. For beneficiaries of the voucher program, the data indicates that 17% attained prioritized status within a year or less, 34% waited between 1 to 2 years, 41% experienced a waiting period of 2 to 5 years, and a final 8% endured a waiting period exceeding five years. (cbpp.org)

The relatively modest proportion of 10% among the total can indeed be viewed as a matter deserving of thoughtful consideration. In pursuit of equitable access to secure, reasonably priced, and sanitary housing, there arises a compelling need to explore strategies for enhancing governmental efficacy. It remains imperative to acknowledge that individuals with modest incomes are equally entitled to fundamental housing rights, thereby warranting constructive actions toward this end.

 

References

Gartland, S. A., & Gartland, S. A. (2021). Families Wait Years for Housing Vouchers Due to Inadequate Funding. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. https://www.cbpp.org/research/housing/families-wait-years-for-housing-vouchers-due-to-inadequate-funding


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