Tag Archives: HAP

Motel limbo – some of Portland’s motels hide a troubling side to homelessness

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From the August 24 edition of Street Roots

The first thing you notice when you enter Tiffany Shepard and Patricia Schafer’s motel room is the darkness, especially in contrast to the blindingly bright summer sunshine outside. The second is the fatigue on the women’s faces, betraying the exhaustion that accompanies living in limbo with an 8-month-old child. Tiffany looks lovingly but wearily at the blanket-covered crib in the corner, where a soft rustling announces the end of her son Caden’s nap and the beginning of nonstop infant supervision.

The fractured family’s room off Sandy Boulevard in outer Northeast Portland is a temporary residence; neither Tiffany nor Patricia calls it a home.

“It’s a roof over our heads,” says Patricia. “That’s it.” Continue reading

Living between two worlds: African refugees battle cultural isolation as they try to adapt to their new home in Portland

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From the August 7 edition of Street Roots. 

On a toasty Tuesday afternoon, Suleqa Ismail wears the trademarks of two different continents: her dark, shoulder-length headscarf reflects the tradition of her native Somalia, while the purse she carries — white with a sequined Minnie Mouse appliqué — is classic American. The split runs through her family, too: The oldest of Ismail’s four children, 9-year-old daughter Fartun, was born in Africa, but her 17-month-old son, Fuad, is a stateside native.

There’s even some ambivalence to her experience in the United States. Although Ismail and her husband, Saleman Adan, are infinitely grateful that they were able to leave war-plagued Somalia and come here as refugees four years ago, the challenges they’ve faced since have made their transition less than smooth. They’re one of many African families in Portland who’ve run across serious housing hurdles since arriving in the U.S.

Since January of 2007, Ismail and Adan have lived with their children at the New Columbia, the Housing Authority of Portland’s sprawling low-income housing complex in North Portland. They pay a third of their income for rent, which was adjusted down when Adan was laid off from his job with a rental car company in February of last year.

This spring, they received a letter stating that the clutter in their yard was in violation of their lease, but because they can’t read English and speak only a Somali dialect called Maay Maay, they didn’t realize the notice was important, and it was forgotten.

In July, to their surprise, Ismail and Adan received a final eviction notice. The couple was baffled. Continue reading

HAP, Nick Fish fight uphill battle to increase Section 8 housing options

From the Dec. 12 special affordable housing edition, “In need of a new deal.”

The Housing Authority of Portland has a perennial problem: thousands of people in need of subsidized housing scramble to join a waiting list, patiently await their turn, and finally – sometimes years later – they receive rental assistance vouchers. Then, vouchers in hand, many of them discover they still have nowhere to go.

Section 8 vouchers, which are funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and administered by HAP, allow low-income tenants to rent privately-owned units in the area of their choice. Tenants with vouchers pay a third of their income toward rent, and the federal subsidy covers the rest. HAP pulls participants from a waiting list, but vouchers expire after 120 days if they cannot find a place to lease.

In March, Street Roots reported that an unusually low number of Section 8 clients were finding rental units before their vouchers expired (See “Sectioned Out,” March 7, 2008). Between November 2007 and late February 2008, less than a third of voucher recipients successfully signed leases. HAP surveyed unsuccessful participants and found that many of them encountered landlords unwilling to accept Section 8 tenants. Continue reading