State Freezes Applications For Section 8 Housing

Wednesday, July 13th 2016, 6:13 pm
By: Grant Hermes

A freeze on some public housing applications may mean thousands of Oklahomans will be forced to live on the street. 

“It's hot, and I've got a heart condition but I get out there and do what I got to do you know?” Beatrice Loveless, 48, said as she was sitting at a table inside Oklahoma City’s Homeless Alliance cafeteria.

She and her son were waiting out the scorching heat of midday July in Oklahoma.

“Just go into the library, come in here stay in here until they close then go to the library, just to stay in the cool,” she said about her daily summer routine.

During the hottest part of the year, those without a place to stay like Beatrice Loveless struggle to beat the heat. A struggle not made any easier after the state was forced to freeze applications for section eight housing.

The freeze went into effect June 1.

Holly Mangham, a spokeswoman for Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency, which is in charge of the Housing Choice Voucher Program, commonly known as Section 8, said the waitlist was more than 20,000 applications long. 

Mangham said the freeze was a decision the agency made to avoid giving applicants false hope of having a roof over their heads because the wait time would be so long. But the freeze could potentially be putting thousands of families at risk for homelessness.

“I wouldn't say they don't have other alternatives … there's just not enough of them,” Dan Straughn from the Homeless Alliance said.

Straughn is the executive director and founder of the alliance which first opened 12 years ago. He said many Section 8 applicants are already on the verge of homelessness and the freeze may be enough to push many working poor over the edge.

“Those folks that are just making it from week to week that need that rental subsidy to survive, um, yeah they're going to end up here,” Straughn said.

Mangham said there is no end to the freeze in the immediate future because the number of applicants that are approved or denied each month is a “fluid number.”

Straughn said he understands why the decision to adopt the freeze had to be made but worries that the problem may have reached its dire stages.

“For a person who's homeless, for that person it's a personal crisis whether you're waiting a day or a year. So yeah, I would say it's in crisis proportions already,” he said.