[Hpn] Residents camp out for housing aid; Camden, NJ; 7/27/02

Morgan W. Brown norsehorse@hotmail.com
Sat, 27 Jul 2002 08:22:02 -0400

-------Forwarded article-------

Saturday, July 27, 2002
Courier-Post <http://www.courierpostonline.com>
[South Jersy: Serving Camden, Burlington, and Gloucester Counties]
Local News section
Residents camp out for housing aid

Courier-Post Staff

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 
subsidized housing.

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 
in line.

"This crowd is to help us build up our waiting list," said Reba V. Hicks, a 
CHA spokeswoman.

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 
or mortgage.

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 jwalsh@courierpostonline.com


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Morgan <norsehorse@hotmail.com>
Morgan W. Brown
Montpelier Vermont USA

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