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Continued: Federal rent subsidies vanish for many low-income Minnesotans

  • Article by: RANDY FURST , Star Tribune
  • Last update: April 12, 2013 - 9:46 AM

Sheila Mack, 55, works at Wal-Mart and lives in a small two-room unit in a Minneapolis Public Housing building. She has a tiny kitchenette with no room for a table. She received word from the Met Council that she had gotten a Section 8 voucher and was hoping for a new apartment where she could have a full kitchen and be able to entertain her children and grandchildren.

Then she was told the voucher was on hold. “It’s like giving someone a check for a thousand dollars and taking it back,” she says.

Kate, 65, who asked that her last name not be used because she finds her homeless circumstances embarrassing, received a voucher in the mail from the Met Council after being on the waiting list for seven years. She says she was on her way to look at an apartment when the council called her to say the voucher had been canceled.

“I am devastated, absolutely devastated,” she said. Over the last year, she has slept on couches, in her car and in a homeless shelter where she said she picked up an infection and was hospitalized. She said she suffers from chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, Lyme disease and hepatitis C.

“I am so sick, I really need permanent housing,” she said. “I need a home to live in and not be so vulnerable to the world.”

Minneapolis Public Housing will not be issuing Section 8 vouchers until 2014, Boyd said. Its board will weigh proposals on its Section 8 program this month, but Boyd would not say what they are.

The St. Paul Public Housing Agency administers 4,500 vouchers. Al Hester, housing policy director, says the agency has 7,500 people on its waiting list, none of whom will get vouchers this year. Jon Gutzmann, the agency executive director, attributes that partly to sequestration.

Other cutbacks are coming to the agency, as well, Gutzmann said. Four vacant positions, one tied to Section 8, will not be filled, and people in five longtime temporary positions have lost their jobs. “Fortunately we have reserves,” Gutzmann said. “I mentioned to the board that this is a time to draw on them and weather this storm, and hope for a better 2014 budget.”

Bryan Hartman, program director of the Bloomington Housing and Redevelopment Authority, which administers 551 Section 8 vouchers, said his agency stopped issuing replacement vouchers at the beginning of 2013. He said if the agency has enough money, it might start reissuing vouchers by June.

The Duluth Housing and Redevelopment Authority, which has 1,472 Section 8 vouchers, is issuing them on a limited basis, but expects to give out 60 to 70 fewer by year’s end because of the sequester, says Rick Ball, the agency’s executive director. “We are able to serve fewer people when the demand is very high and that is certainly a concern,” he said. “We just have a strong need for housing subsidies when there are folks who are unemployed and underemployed.”

Cheryl Jacobson, director of administration for the Dakota County Community Development Agency, said her program administers 2,300 vouchers and continues to replace them as they are turned in. “We’re still crunching our numbers ... to determine what we need to do and what impact [the sequester] is going to be,” she said.

 

Randy Furst • 612-673-4224

 

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