COLUMBIA - More than 60 people lined up outside J.W. "Blind" Boone Community Center, waiting for the door to open on Sept. 17. After having closed it for two years, the Columbia Housing Authority opened the Section 8 waiting list again this year for only one week.
The Columbia Housing Authority receives federal money from HUD--Housing and Urban Development--to fund the Housing Choice Voucher Program.
The program helps its residents pay part of their rent based on their income. If the resident has no income, the program will pay the full rent. If the resident has income, the resident will pay no more than 40 percent of his or her income for the rent.
Gay Litteken, the program's director, explained why the Housing Authority closed the list two years ago.
"If we left the list open at all time, we could have tons of thousands of people on that list, waiting years and years and years for housing," Litteken said.
Since the Housing Authority had served most people on the waiting list, it opened the list again this time.
Although applicants didn't have to come early since the program used a lottery system to determine their placement on the waiting list, some still came very early to apply. A group of women, who were the first to get into the center, got to Columbia at midnight from St. Louis. They said they will move to Columbia if they can get assistance from the program.
To finish the application process, each applicant needed to first fill out a pre-application form and bring a photo identification with him or her. Then, the applicant drew a number among thousands from a bag and registered that number.
Kathleen Johnson, who is a house-keeping supervisor, said she came to the center, hoping to get housing for her family.
"I'm working right now, but we need help, getting back on our feet, and I think this program helps to propel people and gives them a chance to get back in the community," Johnson said.
Of all the applicants, working families, elderly families and persons with disabilities will get preferences on the list. Although everyone can apply, the final eligibility is based on applicants' income, which has to fall into very low or extremely low income limit categories.
The program received about 1475 applications within one week. Applicants can check on their positions on the waiting list after Nov. 5. The Housing Authority is still working on putting people in housing from 2010 and assisting more than 1000 families. It will work on the new waiting list in the next several months.