Monday, April 6, 2009

In Case There's Any Doubt About the Need for Affordable Housing

The agency I work for opened its Section 8 waiting list last week. In five short days, we had over 5100 people through the doors for applications. They waited hours in lines that stretched a full city block, some days in icy rain, others in wind, and for a lucky few, blue skies and warm sun.

You could count our current number of Section 8 vacancies on your hands and feet, so the odds of getting housing this round are, well, you can do the math. Sure, more vacancies will open over time, but it's a sorry state of affairs out there for those in need of an affordable place to live.

Here's a smattering of things I observed in my three days working the line:

-Good cheer: people were amazingly congenial considering their long waits and limited odds
-Hundreds of adorable kids and just a handful of crying babies
-Four women named Unique, one named Sparkle, and one named Chakakahn
-Three men who could produce no photo IDs other than inmate-identification cards
-License photos that told of happier, more stable times
-Countless people about to change their addresses because their current residences (mostly multi-unit rentals) had been foreclosed upon
-Women who could provide only PO boxes because they live in domestic-abuse shelters and are prohibited from giving a street address
-A photographer covering the story for the Chicago Reporter, who said he expected to be in line next year, considering the current state of the journalism profession
-A surprising number of applicants who looked just like me
-An occasional drunk
-An occasional crossing guard
-An occasional applicant in medical scrubs
-Many with crutches or canes who refused the offer of a chair
-Desperation, mettle, and hope


tracy said...

Oh, this is so poignant.
Eye opening.
And lovely that you took the time to individualize and recognize.

Diana Sudyka said...

Wow - this is astounding. It's one thing to read about it, but to hear your first hand account is more humbling, especially with seeing the photos of that line. It's still really hard to grasp the numbers.

leslie said...

Like Tracy, I love that you're recognizing the stories with each person in that line.