[Hpn] Residents camp out for housing aid; Camden, NJ; 7/27/02
Morgan W. Brown
Sat, 27 Jul 2002 08:22:02 -0400
Saturday, July 27, 2002
[South Jersy: Serving Camden, Burlington, and Gloucester Counties]
Local News section
Residents camp out for housing aid
By JIM WALSH
More than a thousand low-income people made themselves temporarily homeless
Friday, sitting outside in a long line for the chance to apply today for
The throng, which included many single moms with low-paying jobs, began
building Thursday afternoon outside the offices of the Camden Housing
Authority. By 8 p.m. Friday, more than 1,300 people, including scores of
children, were waiting in a makeshift campground that snaked around much of
a city block, then circled a weed-filled parking lot.
"It's exhausting," said Robin Powell, 28, of the city's Parkside area, who
stood near the front of the line. "You want to go home, but you know you
can't. You are determined to get this housing."
Many in the growing line were unhappy, blasting the housing agency because
they had to sleep on the streets in order to apply for federal housing
vouchers, starting at 8 a.m. today.
And many of the Camden County residents were worried, fearful that they
would not get a shot at the 1,250 applications for housing subsidies - a
chance at a bigger home, a better school, a safer neighborhood.
In fact, prospects for a quick move weren't good for anyone - even the first
"This crowd is to help us build up our waiting list," said Reba V. Hicks, a
She said the CHA has no money for new vouchers under the federally funded
Section 8 program, which typically covers about two-thirds of a typical rent
And while the agency expects federal funds for about 300 vouchers, Hicks
said, that money will first go to applicants already on a waiting list. The
list has about 300 names.
Hicks said the long line "is saying there's a great need for housing."
She defended the authority's decision to have applicants wait overnight.
"We want everyone to come at the same time," she said. "It' s a matter of
But many in the line saw things differently.
"This is degrading and humiliating," said James Reed, 40, of South Camden.
"We're an advertisement for them to get funds."
"It needs to be more organized," said D'Ondra Bynum, 27, of Clementon.
"They've got people out in the heat with little kids. It's chaotic."
Said Antoinette Bey, 37, a mother of four from Cramer Hill: "Why can't they
just give you a number and say, `Come back in the morning?'"
But several people noted the authority last accepted Section 8 applications
in August 2000. They were not eager to wait another two years.
"I just want a stable place to raise my kids," said Loresha Gaines, 23, who
lives with her three children in a one-bedroom apartment in East Camden. "I
live on a drug- infested street. My oven doesn't work. My ceiling fell in."
While some people had tents, others improvised their accommodations. One
family sat on sofa cushions. Other groups created tents by attaching plastic
sheeting to a fence, topped with barbed wire, behind the CHA's offices in
the Sears Building on Admiral Wilson Boulevard.
Authority workers provided bottled water and portable toilets for the crowd.
Camden Police and authority guards provided security, although many people
openly fretted about potential line-jumpers this morning.
Hicks said the authority also set aside 250 applications for senior citizens
and people with disabilities, so that they did not have to wait in line.
Denise Starks, a fast-food worker from Woodlynne, expressed determination as
she passed the time Friday afternoon.
"If I'd known people were going to start this line, I would have been here
on Monday," Starks said. "I'm not leaving. If it's pouring down rain, I'm
going to be in line.
"If I've never accomplished anything in 42 years, I'm going to get an
application for my family."
Reach Jim Walsh at (856) 486-2646 or email@example.com
**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this
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Morgan W. Brown
Montpelier Vermont USA
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