published Monday, October 11th, 2010

Thousands respond to rare chance at CHA housing vouchers

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    Staff Photo by Laura-Chase McGehee/Chattanooga Times Free Press/ Oct 7, 2010 - Shateria Parker,15, holds her 3-month-old daughter Za'Niyla Parker, at the door of her mother's home in College Hill Courts. Both Parkers live with Shateria's mother, Cassandra Robinson, who has lived in public housing for 21 years and has been waiting for Section 8 housing since at least 2008.

Cassandra Robinson has lived in public housing for two decades. She said God told her this year it was time to move.

“He said, ‘It’s time to get out of this nest that you’re in. I need you to move and move quickly,’” said Robinson.

She’s about to get her chance.

For the first time in two years, the Chattanooga Housing Authority is accepting new applicants for its Housing Choice Voucher Program, formerly called Section 8, which helps low-income residents afford rent in private housing.

Just 200 vouchers are available, but Robinson is among an estimated 3,000 people who have applied since applications started being accepted on Oct. 4. Even more are expected by the time the application period ends Friday.

“It shows the tremendous need we have for housing in the community,” said CHA board Chairman Eddie Holmes. “I don’t know if there will ever be a funding source to guarantee housing for everybody.”

CHA will select 200 applicants in a lottery drawing Oct. 29 to receive vouchers and aims to have them in homes by year’s end.

For some people, a voucher might mean an end to living on the streets or crowded in with relatives.

In the Chattanooga area, about 4,000 people a year experience homelessness, including about 1,000 children, according to “The Blueprint to End Chronic Homelessness in the Chattanooga Region in Ten Years,” a study conducted by the city in 2004.

For Robinson, who has lived in College Hill Courts public housing development for 21 years, a voucher would mean a new start. While she’s grateful to have had a place to raise her family, she wants more for them.

“Getting a voucher will allow my daughter to see Mom stepping out on faith,” she said. “I want to have my own backyard and a garden.”

Her household includes her 13-year-old son, Jamond Rawlings, and 15-year-old daughter, Shateria Parker.

“I’ve grown up in public housing for so long, I don’t know how it feels to have my own, to live in a house and be in an environment without hearing gunshots and arguments,” said Shateria, who is also raising her 3-month-old daughter in the development.

Long wait

The lottery represents a new way of awarding vouchers in Chattanooga.

For years, CHA maintained a list of applicants, with vouchers going to those who had been on the list the longest, provided they met income standards and passed background checks.

But the list was frustrating for applicants who remained on it for years, and time-consuming for CHA when it came time to comb through thousands of names for eligible applicants.

In 2008, CHA stopped taking Section 8 applications because the agency had no way to house people.

“We had no money,” said Holmes. “So we had no units, no resources. Now [U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development] is giving us this opportunity to house people.”

In January, HUD started giving the housing authority $250,000 more per month for its voucher program.

By then, the waiting list had grown to nearly 4,200.

About 1,500 people from the list since have received vouchers, but more than half of them — about 2,700 — were eliminated because they didn’t pass the background check or didn’t respond to requests for information. Some had been on the list for four years, housing officials said.

Robinson had been on the list since 2007. She said she received a letter in 2009 asking if she was still interested in housing. Before she could respond, she said, she was in a car crash that affected her short-term memory. By the time she remembered and returned the letter, it was past the deadline.

She got depressed, she said. But she didn’t lose hope.

Public lottery

After finally clearing the waiting list, CHA officials were ready for a new round of voucher awards. But this time they decided to award the vouchers in a different way.

The result has been a smoother application process, one that officials believe is safer, fairer and more transparent.

Earlier this month, CHA officials set a date to hand out voucher applications.

They had heard news stories of stampedes and children nearly being trampled in East Point, Ga., this year when 30,000 people showed up for 455 federal housing vouchers. CHA officials wanted to make sure no stampedes happened in Chattanooga.

Housing staff were in place at 4:30 a.m. on Oct. 4 to distribute and receive voucher applications. Applicants were told they didn’t have to be first to receive or complete their application because, for the first time, CHA was going to use a lottery to select voucher winners.

KEY DATES

Oct. 15, Noon: Application deadline; must be hand-delivered or postmarked by Oct. 15

Oct. 29, 10 a.m.: Public lottery drawing at CHA office, 801 N. Holtzclaw Ave.

Dec. 31, 2011: Any lottery tickets remaining on this date will be destroyed; a new pool of applicants will be created when needed.



GET AN APPLICATION

* Online at www.chahousing.org

* CHA public housing communities

* CHA Central Office, 801 N. Holtzclaw Ave.

* Metropolitan Ministries, 1112 McCallie Ave.

* Joe Johnson Mental Health Center, 420 Bell Ave.

* Mid-Cumberland Mountain Ministry, 16 First St., Monteagle, Tenn.



ABOUT HOUSING VOUCHERS

* Income guidelines: A single person may make up to $19,600 a year, and a family of four may make up to $27,950 a year.

* Monthly awards: On average, a voucher will pay a landlord about $650 a month for a three-bedroom apartment, more if the landlord agrees to pay utilities.

Source: Chattanooga Housing Authority

“The lottery gives people two weeks to get a very simplistic application in,” said Betsy McCright, CHA’s executive director. “So there is no rush at the door on Day One. And the person who applies on Day One has an equal chance as a person who arrives on the last minute that we’re accepting applications.”

LaTosha Lee likes the new process.

The 37-year-old single mother of four lives in an East Chattanooga home. She initially thought she could make it without government assistance, but she said it’s hard to make ends meet without help.

She turned in her application Monday, said a prayer and complimented CHA staff on how efficient the application process has been so far.

“This is so well organized,” said Lee, after turning in her paperwork.

She remembered when she came to the CHA’s Holtzclaw Avenue office for a housing voucher in 2007. “It was a catastrophe,” she said.

The parking lot was crowded with people reaching over one another for applications, she said. People stood in line for hours and some started breaking in front of others.

“They were even trying to knock the police officers down. That’s how serious these people were about these applications,” said Lee.

The crowd became so intimidating, she eventually left without getting an application, she said.

Opportunity came again for her this month.

“I said I was going to be patient and my time was going to come around,” she said.

The voucher lottery drawing will be held Oct. 29 at the CHA office, 801 N. Holtzclaw Ave.

“We’re going to do it publicly so people can come and observe to make sure it’s done properly,” said McCright. “Everybody has the same fair chance of [his or her voucher] getting pulled.”

CHA isn’t sure when it will issue more vouchers; that depends on funding for the upcoming year. Housing officials say they probably won’t know until the end of the year.

That makes this round of voucher awards that much more important.

Robinson said she has started praying about the house she wants to have if she gets a voucher.

It should have plenty of windows, lots of space, a backyard and a front yard, she said. And she expects God to deliver.

“I went into prayer with him about that,” she said. “I depend on God for all I need. I believe he will supply.”

about Yolanda Putman...

Yolanda Putman has been a reporter at the Times Free Press for 11 years. She covers housing and previously covered education and crime. Yolanda is a Chattanooga native who has a master’s degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Alabama State University. She previously worked at the Lima (Ohio) News. She enjoys running, reading and writing and is the mother of one son, Tyreese. She has also ...

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Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
Tax_Payer said...

They need to give out about 2500 vouchers and level West Side, East Lake, and East Chattanooga housing projects. Let the poor people move to where they want, instead of restricting them to districts with poor functioning schools and high crime.

I'm all for decentralization and diversity!

October 11, 2010 at 5:04 a.m.
enufisenuf said...

Good idea taxpayer, then the ones who have made west side, Eastlake and East Chatt slums, drug and violence areas can move into nice neighborhoods and ruin them. Not to bright there Tax payer.

October 11, 2010 at 6:11 a.m.
senyahc said...

15 and already has a 3 month old baby, AND lives in public housing? This girl hasn't been afforded any chances. This breaks my heart. She has a mountain to climb that others (me) didn't get. All I had to do was show up at class. Give them a home... daycare, maybe the baby won't fall under the same fate!

October 11, 2010 at 6:40 a.m.
Sailorman said...

Tax_Payer

The city of Memphis did exactly as you suggest. You should check out the results. There have been studies done on it.

October 11, 2010 at 6:46 a.m.
rolando said...

There ya go. Three generations of welfare moms without a father in sight...and working on a fourth generation.

Johnson's Great Society and his drive to destroy the black nuclear family through welfare dependency hasn't worked out so well, has it? Or maybe it has...maybe that's what he wanted. He WAS a Dem, after all.

October 11, 2010 at 6:55 a.m.
rolando said...

Miss Shateria had all the breaks anyone gets, senyahc.

She made her own choices [I doubt she used a turkey baster, for starters]. Those choices, fun at the time perhaps, haven't turned out well. Maybe it was the examples set by her mama and grandmama, ya think?

She is only 15; her life is hardly over. What do you think she will do with it? Sit back and take the dole or go back to school? She doesn't need daycare -- she has two built-in babysitters right at home.

A new home won't change a thing; within a year, this family and their surroundings will be just as they are today.

October 11, 2010 at 7:05 a.m.
captainrt said...

Why not spend the money on teaching them that blowing out kids one after another when you are poor is not the way to get out of the projects? I noticed that one of these people has a fifteen year old with a three month old of her own. I feel sorry for these people but if I see someone hitting themselves in the head with a hammer, I am not going to reward them with a better hammer. The cycle of ignorance needs to be broken and rewarding people for bad behavior as well; some have figured out that kids equal dollars. "It (the house) should have plenty of windows, lots of space, a backyard and front yard." and she "expects God to deliver." He might deliver but he will send the bill to me and every other person that pays for this. There are a lot of people that play by the rules, work hard and have fallen on hard times but for each one of them there are hundreds that simply have learned to work the system.

October 11, 2010 at 7:18 a.m.
Harrison said...

I've been a landlord of several THOUSAND rental properties in Chattanooga, and have had the headache of dealing with CHA on hundreds of occasions. The Housing Choice Voucher program is a joke. I currently collect section 8 vouchers for two separate young ladies on the program that have NO children, brand new cars, nice furniture and GUCCI bags. Their AUNT works for CHA- go figure. Also, when a section 8 tenant decides to skip out in the middle of the night leaving the property destroyed beyond belief, they are allowed to stay on the program!! Even if you win a judgment against them in court! They move on to destroy someone else's property. The reports go unanswered. We need to TERMINATE the currupted employees, ban the CRIMINALS that destroy Investors' property from the program for good, and make room for people that are truly in need.

October 11, 2010 at 8:09 a.m.
memphisexile said...

Sailorman is correct.

As a current Memphis resident I get to see what knocking down the projects did to this city every day. Now the criminal element that formerly lived in those projects has moved all over the city ruining formerly nice neighborhoods like Hickory Hill. Now there is crime everywhere instead of just a few areas.

Personally, I think if you are taking a government handout you should stay in government housing. If its not nice, take action and take responsibility and clean your neighborhood up. If you want free or low cost housing, don't complain when it isn't quality.

October 11, 2010 at 10:20 a.m.
Sailorman said...

memphisexile

I linked to a study done by a couple (one is Professor of Criminology at Univ of Memphis) but the post didn't show for some reason. It was enlightening to say the least.

There was also an article in the Atlantic, "American Murder Mystery by Hanna Rosin, the clearly defined the issue.

October 11, 2010 at 10:32 a.m.
FM_33 said...

There ya go. Three generations of welfare moms without a father in sight...and working on a fourth generation.

Johnson's Great Society and his drive to destroy the black nuclear family through welfare dependency hasn't worked out so well, has it? Or maybe it has...maybe that's what he wanted. He WAS a Dem, after all. Username: rolando | On: October 11, 2010 at 6:55 a.m.


Rolando please don't assume that every faminy that lives in public housing is dependent on welfare.

October 11, 2010 at 2:26 p.m.
FM_33 said...

15 and already has a 3 month old baby, AND lives in public housing? This girl hasn't been afforded any chances. This breaks my heart. She has a mountain to climb that others (me) didn't get. All I had to do was show up at class. Give them a home... daycare, maybe the baby won't fall under the same fate! Username: senyahc | On: October 11, 2010 at 6:40 a.m.


Hey instead of just sitting there and running off at the keyboard why don't you send her some $$$ so that she can move on out the projects to a better life !

October 11, 2010 at 2:28 p.m.
FM_33 said...

Personally, I think if you are taking a government handout you should stay in government housing. If its not nice, take action and take responsibility and clean your neighborhood up. If you want free or low cost housing, don't complain when it isn't quality. Username: memphisexile | On: October 11, 2010 at 10:20 a.m.


I love to see you live in public housing for a few years and i bet you would'nt be talking that smack so much. You must have never lived there yourself so stop pointing a finger until you feel it and lived there !

October 11, 2010 at 2:32 p.m.
FM_33 said...

1000 hands clasped in prayer can't match the job accomplished by two hands working. GET A JOB! Username: wildman | On: October 11, 2010 at 12:20 p.m.


When i lived in public housing for 11 years myself Wildman i was working just about every day what the hell are you talking about !

October 11, 2010 at 2:34 p.m.
FM_33 said...

Username: rolando | On: October 11, 2010 at 6:55 a.m.


Rolando please don't assume that every adult parent/young parents that lives in public housing is dependent on welfare.

October 11, 2010 at 2:42 p.m.
FM_33 said...

Sailorman is correct.

As a current Memphis resident I get to see what knocking down the projects did to this city every day. Now the criminal element that formerly lived in those projects has moved all over the city ruining formerly nice neighborhoods like Hickory Hill. Now there is crime everywhere instead of just a few areas.

Username: memphisexile | On: October 11, 2010 at 10:20 a.m.


In case you did not know Memphisexile some of the biggest criminals in american society are high income working people.

Don't believe me go ahead and ask your local FBI agent or US Marshal deputy in your area about who does most of the fraud and money scams in this country and let your eyes be opened.

I hate people who always see crime as just a poor man or woman's issue and pass over the fact that the rich are doing some dirt to !

The only difference is the rich are more slicker and get away with more money then the poor person does.

October 11, 2010 at 2:53 p.m.
xsiveporsche said...

Section 8 is a joke. I will no longer accept it in any of my propereties. Section 8 inspects the properties every 6 months and if something is found wrong then I must fix it or they keep my check. Sounds fair! Problem is when these ungrateful people moved in the property was brand new, 6 months later the vinyl is ripped, tripping hazard, replace it. Iron burns on carpet, holes in wall. 6 months rent at $800 is $4800 damage from those 6 months is aboout $6000. The last home I rented section 8 It cost me $52,000 aftyer I finally got the people out. It took 3 months after section 8 quit paying, They stole everything, Fridge, Stove, DW, even the central heat and air and there was not an inch of wall space that was not destroyed. These people even took the toilets and bathtub. Who has to pay for all this, Me, if I want to rent section 8 again. Sorry never in my worst nightmares will I ever rent section 8 again. Some good tenants on section 8 and I have had some good ones but they are few and far between

October 11, 2010 at 4:14 p.m.
NObama12 said...

Wildman is spot on. This "system" we have breads laziness. Democrats want to keep bleeding the working man's check every week, and for what??? oh... I forgot...we have to pay to keep up the projects. The old hammer and sickle is just around the corner!!!

October 11, 2010 at 9:56 p.m.
NObama12 said...

God told her to move? I knew he was a Republican.

October 11, 2010 at 10:17 p.m.
msdana31 said...

Some of these comments leave me speechless. I can actually speak on this subject from experience. At one point in my life, I was on Section 8. I was a 22 year old single mother(one child) with a job. I was not receiving child support, and it was not from a lack of trying, and I have never been on welfare a day in my life. Nor have I ever lived in the projects. I was on Section 8 for 5 years. This is a wonderful program if used properly. It is extremely hard to find quality, affordable housing in a decent neighborhood with one measely income. I refused to raise my daughter in a neighborhood that would suck the life out of her by the time she was 12 years old. That is the purpose of section 8, so that everyone can have access to affordable housing. Unfortunately, some people are victims of systematic depravity that has been passed down from generation to generation. Which means that they lack the proper tools, examples and guidance that some of us were blessed with. But that does not mean that they should be herded into one section of town like cattle. Everyone deserves a chance for a better life. And we are all God's people. Some of us just need a little more help along the way. But the problem lies within those of us that receive that opportunity for positive change, but never grow. Some stay planted just as they were. The system is not made to help the same people over and over again(unless they are completely disabled). It is made to help people move forward into a better way of life. And once you are at the point where you can stand on your own, you should move over and make room for someone else. When I was making enough money to stand on my own, I did. But I was also raised by a hard working single mother that was a great role model for me. Everyone doesn't have that. I am living proof that the Section 8 program does work when used properly. I am also living proof that good role models do exist in the poor communities. Maybe the program needs to sit down with each able bodied person and map out a 5 year plan of what accomplishments need to be met in order to eventually stand firmly on their own. Some mandatory counseling programs for the people who are stuck in generational poverty and generational recipients of government programs would help too. My point, however long, is that no program will work properly for anyone if the root of the problem is psychological and not dealt with first.

October 11, 2010 at 11:53 p.m.
lilj0725 said...

I have never realized how many biggots there are in this town. The more i read, the more disgusted i become. I am a caucasion DIVORCED mom with children. I have worked since I was 15. I have always worked fulltime alot of times with OT each week. I pay in over $100 in taxes each paycheck. I have a college degree and professional license.

I have also been on Section 8 for 3 years. My house does not have 1 hole in the walls, i actually remodeled at MY expens because my bathroom had so much mold in the walls that we all got sick from it. My landlord would not do anything so i had to. Not all people on welfare are black and slackers and dont have a father figure around. My parents have been married for almost 50 years and my children have a father figure around along with a grandfather figure on a daily basis. I am white and work 40+ hours a week. Sometimes there are circumstances that give people no other choice. I admit there are some people that abuse the system but there are those of us who desparately need the help to get back on our feet.

My children arent out walking the streets like other non welfare kids because their parents dont care what they do. My kids are always complimented on how well behaved and polite they are. It really makes you sit and think when your elementary school kids come and ask you why those others kids curse and talk the way they do. I have to tell them that they cant help it, that they talk like that becasue it is what they hear from parents. My kids attend a magnet school in a good area and they still hear all of that from kids not in public housing.

Before people start off with their comments using "these people" they need to think of all sides of an issue. What would you do if you lost your job, lost your house and marriage all at once? I am sure you would change your opinion then if you had to get assistance in some form. All of us are not bad people.

Last time I read the Bible, which was a few hours ago, God is the one to judge us on judgement day, not you.

October 12, 2010 at 12:16 a.m.
captainrt said...

The above two posts sound like people for which this program was designed for. It is a shame that the system is designed to help only after you fall off the cliff, not before. So many people in this country are right on the edge just waiting for the event that will finish them off, I could be wiped-out with one major medical problem. It is hard not to become cynical, I think the above article used poor examples. For those interested, go to criminalsearches.com and, well, you'll figure out what to do with it.

October 12, 2010 at 7:15 a.m.
eeeeeek said...

lilj0725 wrote "Last time I read the Bible, which was a few hours ago, God is the one to judge us on judgement day, not you."

You must have read the condensed edited version that they give to children during indoctrination to be done that fast.

October 12, 2010 at 8:10 a.m.
NObama12 said...

lilj0725 can continue to donate $100 a paycheck to support this disease. I tell you what liljo725, you should give more that that $100. Prove your point and give it all. You are so supportive of this, only you can make a difference....OH and don't forget to throw the Bible in any chance you get. Jesus was a carpenter, not a panhandler.

October 12, 2010 at 11:02 p.m.
eeeeeek said...

Jesus is a dishwasher... he works at my ex mother-in-law's restaurant.

October 13, 2010 at 7:20 a.m.
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