[Hpn] Demand booms for subsidized housing in Evansville, IN

chance martin streetsheet@sf-homeless-coalition.org
Mon, 18 Jun 2001 14:28:36 -0700


http://www.courierpress.com:80/cgi-bin/view.cgi?200106/17+housing061701_news
.html+20010617

Evansville Courier & Press
Sunday, June 17, 2001 

Demand booms for subsidized housing
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By CAROL WERSICH, Courier & Press staff writer
(812) 464-7452 or cwersich@evansville.net
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At least 900 needy Evansville families, including many who are homeless,
have signed up for federal assistance to live in subsidized housing.

But most of the familiesı desperate struggles may continue for quite some
time. 

Itıs expected to take six to 18 months ‹ or longer ‹ to process all the
applications for Section 8 vouchers from the U.S. Department of Housing and
Urban Development. 

Once applicants are approved for the funding, they could still be without
permanent housing. 

There is a critical shortage of subsidized housing in the city, say
officials of the Evansville Housing Authority, the agency which processes
the applications and administers the vouchers.

Each voucher pays up to 70 percent of a qualified applicantıs rent in
subsidized housing.

Several thousand families currently are being served. The majority are
single-female households, EHA officials said.

The local agency accepts applications only on a special day once every two
years, or when its waiting list of previous applicants dwindles.

The 900 new applications ‹ 200 to 300 more than usual ‹ were taken Tuesday.

The agency must also still find subsidized housing for about 100 more
applicants from 1999, said Deborah Roper, an EHA housing specialist.

To qualify, applicants must meet certain criteria, including passing
criminal checks and meeting income levels.

A person considered to be low-income by HUD canıt earn more than $18,350 a
year, for example. A three-person household canıt earn more than $23,600 a
year, Roper said. 

Some of the applicants are without permanent housing because high utility
bills got them behind financially and they lost their apartment leases, say
officials. 

Most shelters filled

Many of the applicants are living temporarily in cramped conditions with
relatives or friends. Others are living in shelters for the homeless.

Most emergency shelters in the city are filled, but officials at some
shelters say they wonıt turn anyone away.

Transitional housing units also are filled. The application process for
getting in one of those units also takes time.

So does getting approved for public housing, sponsored by EHA, although the
agency currently has 24 vacant units out of a total of 1,073.

Hot day, long line 

The scene on the hot and humid day when the applications were taken at
Kennedy Tower Downtown reminded Paul Fletcher ‹ new executive director of
the EHA ‹ of the nationıs Depression era, when people stood in long lines
for government assistance, he said.

Many of the applicants waited for hours in a line that extended outside the
building. 

Mothers with babies in their arms and older children, tugging at their
waists, didnıt dare get out of the line because the applications are
processed in the order in which theyıre taken.

People with disabilities also patiently waited.

Fletcher arranged for cool drinks, refreshments and portable
air-conditioners for those waiting in line.

Rhonda Whitsell, the 397th person in the line, said afterward she was a
former landlord of subsidized housing. She never dreamed sheıd someday seek
the Section 8 assistance for herself and her two young children.

She came upon hard times after going through a divorce and being unemployed,
her current status. She said she is living in a local shelter.

³It donıt feel good at all having to walk in these shoes. But my problem is
small compared to those of some of (the other applicants).²

She credited the EHA with trying to make it as easy on the applicants as
possible. ³Iım glad to know there are people like them.²

Whitsell said she receives support for her children from the Indiana
Division of Family & Children and Medicaid. Her family also receives food
stamps. 

She is trying to get a job, but, she said, she is confused.

³If it wasnıt for Debbie Roper (of the EHA) and others down there I wouldnıt
have a clue of what to do.²

Tugged at heartstrings

Roper said it is hard for EHA workers to maintain their professionalism
because ³our heart strings get pulled like everyone else's.²

Alice Cooper, the EHAıs marketing director, said, ³One applicant was there
with her baby who was only 1 week old. It made me just want to stay there
and baby-sit.² 

Cooper provided suckers for a number of children to help keep them occupied.

Alice Weathers, executive director of the Community Action Program, said her
agency administers Section 8 vouchers in Gibson County.

She said the increase in the Evansville number of applicants far exceeds
that in Gibson County, where applications are accepted on an ongoing basis.

She said she hopes a way can be worked out for some of Gibsonıs vouchers to
be shared with Evansville.

She plans to discuss the idea soon with EHA officials.

The EHA is working with area agencies in trying to locate temporary housing
for some of the applicants, Roper said.

She issued a public plea for anyone with housing, which they would be
willing to subsidize, to let the EHA office know by calling 428-8500.

-- 
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