Tag Archives: HUD

Housing veterans, local numbers fall short

By Robert Britt, Staff Writer

When Army veteran Mark Townsend left the military service in the early ’70s, a decades-long battle with substance abuse and homelessness was just beginning.

Addiction marred Townsend’s transition to civilian life and reduced him to living what he calls a “life of drinking and using.” That life led to legal troubles, mental health issues and a lack of stable housing.

Townsend, now 54, says he repeatedly tried to get help. “I’ve been in and out of the VA several times, trying to get clean and sober, and couldn’t.”

Last August, he entered a residential substance abuse treatment program and was soon told of a federal program that could get him into subsidized housing while providing counseling and treatment for his addiction.

The Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program (VASH) is a two-pronged approach to reduce homelessness among veterans. It couples government-subsidized rental vouchers from local, public housing authorities with case-managed assistance and clinical care provided by VA medical centers. When created, the program tasked a VA system already strained from the rising number of returning veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — with the new responsibility of managing a supportive housing program. Continue reading

New federal guidelines for low-income housing cut out explicit tenant protections regarding bed bugs

By Amanda Waldroupe, Staff Writer

The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s new landlord guidelines for dealing with bed bug infestations have some tenant-rights advocates concerned that renters could be on the hook for costly exterminations.

The new guidelines were released in late April, replacing its prior notice that had been published in August. Continue reading

State loses fed contract on Section 8 contract management

by Staff Reports

Oregon state housing programs got a major shake-up this month when Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS) failed to secure a key federal Section 8 housing assistance contract.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, announced July 1 that the OHCS was not selected to continue serving as the Section 8 Housing Assistance Payments Performance-Based Contract Administrator for Oregon. Continue reading

Home Again: The Admiral welcomes back displaced residents

By Amanda Waldroupe, Staff Writer

A chain link fence has enclosed the Admiral Park Apartments between SW Park Avenue and SW Taylor Street for the last 10 months, construction equipment and garbage chutes taking up the sidewalk and obscuring the former entrance of Taco Del Mar.

But beginning Saturday, May 22, different objects have surrounded the low income, 37-unit apartment complex: moving trucks.

The apartment complex has reopened after being closed in the spring of 2009 for rehabilitation, and 15 of the 37 tenants who were asked to move are coming home.

The rehab replaced the plumbing, electrical, and heating systems. The building was given a seismic upgrade, and repairs were made to the 100-year-old building’s siding and bricks. The carpet is new and the paint fresh. Walking around in the quiet apartment building, it is difficult to imagine that it ever had a bed bug problem. Continue reading

Northwest Oregon gets Section 8 bailout from feds

The Northwest Oregon Housing Authority, which terminated nearly 300 families from it’s Section 8 program this summer, will receive $800,000 from the federal housing bureau to restore assistance in the tri-county region.

However, families who heeded letters to find new housing options are now out of the loop.
At the end of May, 285 families were sent letters from the Northwest Oregon Housing Authority informing them that their Section 8 would be discontinued in 30 days due to a shortage in funding. The shortfall came after the housing authority exceeded the number of vouchers it could issue, and then drained it’s reserves covering the costs.

The federal Bureau of Housing and Urban Development, which funds the Section 8 housing assistance voucher program through public housing authorities, announced earlier this month that it will essentially bail out NOHA and other authorities in similar situations. Following an application request process earlier this month, NOHA is expected to receive $800,000 to restore housing assistance to the families terminated from the program. Continue reading

HUD hopes for the future with Secretary Shawn Donovan

DonovanmainFrom the August 21 edition of Street Roots

Shaun Donovan, named secretary of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development served as an intern at the National Coalition for the Homeless when his career in Washington was just getting started.

Here are his reflections of that time:

“As an undergraduate I was volunteering at a homeless shelter in Cambridge and went to hear Robert Hayes, founder of Coalition for the Homeless, speak. His powerful words moved me to ask if there was any work I could do with the coalition in Washington as I was moving there to intern for Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan.  Robert Hayes directed me to Maria Foscarinis  and the National Coalition for the Homeless. I interned for the Coalition at the same time as working in Senator Moynihan’s office and conducted research federal housing policy at both places. I remember staying up all night to set up an exhibition of photographs from Stephenie Hollyman’s book “We the Homeless” in the Senate Rotunda. “  – Shaun Donovan

Tony Taylor: At a recent news conference, President Obama was asked to comment on the growing crisis of family homelessness. The president responded by acknowledging that the homelessness problem in this country “was bad even when the economy was good,” and cited the importance of creating quality jobs to help homeless families and individuals afford shelter. While job creation is certainly an important component of a federal response to homelessness, it is only part of the solution. What would you add to the president’s response?

Shawn Donovan:
For many Americans, the previous economic prosperity was largely fueled by the artificial growth in home values.  This put tremendous pressure on the rental marketplace as lower income families struggled to find a home or apartment they could afford.  They experienced none of the benefits of a booming housing market and all of the negative consequences.

President Obama and I are convinced that any recovery must be sustainable and based on real growth, not only on the jobs front, but in the housing market as well. And this absolutely must include a more concerted effort on the part of the federal government to encourage the production of more affordable rental housing.   Continue reading

Extra! Extra!

aug2109page1Thanks to all of you who wrote in about our vendors lately. We’ve known how great they are for years, and it’s good to hear it from their customers, too. So, if you haven’t talked to your vendor lately, you’ve got a great reason to swing by tomorrow morning. The new edition of Street Roots hits the pavement around 9 a.m. Friday. Here’s what’s inside:

Motel limbo: Some of Portland’s motels hide a troubling side to homelessness. Becca Robinson reports.

Loss of low-cost housing routing poor from downtown: Amanda Waldroupe reports on the latest figures on housing in the city’s center, and how services are looking beyond for affordable options for the poor.

Who’s raking the muck? Joanne Zuhl interviews Harper’s editor Ken Silverstein, who lays out his brutal vision of modern-day journalism.

HUD’s hopes for the future: HUD Secretary Shawn Donovan cut his teeth on homeless issues with the National Coalition for the Homeless. Now, homeless advocates want to hear how he will apply what he’s learned.

Plus more news, a new column by vendor Leo Rhodes, letters to the editor, and lots of attitude in between. Let us know your thoughts, and as always, thanks for your support!

Posted by Joanne Zuhl

Update on NW Oregon Families: Families on the fringe go month-to-month unsure of housing assistance

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(Jennifer Cherry stands in the doorway of her home, holding the cancellation letter from the housing authority. Photo by Ken Hawkins.)

While hundreds of families in Northwest Oregon continue to live month-to-month in hopes of good news for their housing assistance, relief is trickling down from Washington D.C.
The federal government recently announced it will provide $30 million to people on Section 8 housing assistance, after authorities across the country reported massive shortfalls in funding.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, funds the Section 8 program through local housing authorities. Among them is the Northwest Oregon Housing Authority, which in May notified nearly 300 families in Tillamook, Clatsop and Columbia counties that the authority could no longer afford to provide them housing assistance (Street Roots, “The Letter,” June 12). According to news reports and testimony before Congress, the same was happening to authorities across the country, as the economic downturn overburdened the resources for housing assistance. (Street Roots, “The Perfect Storm,” June26)

For Jeff Crist and Jennifer Cherry, a family in Girabaldi Street Roots has been following throughout this crisis, life has been reduced to a stressful, monthly waiting game. The couple, who have three children, were among the hundreds of families dropped from the Section 8 program as of July. Because of disabilities, neither Jeff nor Jennifer have been able to work, and NOHA was covering about 90 percent of their rent.

Last month, NOHA elected to draw on its other funds to pay rent for families to stay in their homes on an immediate basis. Crist says they’re secure for the month of August with NOHA’s assistance, but he says they probably won’t know about September until late in the month.

“They’re playing the day-to-day-basis thing on us,” Crist says. “Hopefully one of these letters will say we’re going to help you like we were. But from day-to-day, you don’t know if you’re going to be packing or leaving.”

In the meantime, Crist says he continues to look for work wherever he might find it, but, he says, “it’s not looking really good right now. There are no job openings. But there’s a lot of work starting up. I’m keeping my eyes out for any little thing at the employment office.”

Cherry is recovering from surgery on a herniated disc in her neck. She is restricted to lifting no more than 10 pounds right now, which limits her work options. But she and Crist are hopeful that as she recovers that restriction will be lifted, and that as the economy strengthens, Crist can find work.

HUD has already spent $89 million of the $100 million set-aside fund provided annually by Congress to support housing authorities facing increased demand or “unforeseen circumstances.” HUD says the remaining $11 million will go to agencies that are on the verge of terminating families. The additional $30 million will go to agencies that are eligible to receive extraordinary administrative fees for technical assistance to prevent the termination of families. These funds can also be used to fund vouchers, according to HUD. The nation’s 2,400 housing authorities were notified at the start of August that the funds would be available. These agencies now have until Aug. 14 to notify HUD that they need this money to prevent existing voucher terminations.

Carol Snell, the executive director with NOHA, says that they immediately applied for $700,000 out of the $30 million HUD has made available. If they receive all of that, Snell says, NOHA expects to bring everyone who was terminated from the program back on to vouchers. The housing authority has already spent its reserves for housing, and at this time has no money to support those terminated past August, Snell said.

“We’re carrying people for as long as we can, but the housing authority does not have any other pots of money that we can go to to pay rents for September,” Snell said.

According to HUD, the funding shortfalls — revealed in May when HUD notified agencies of their 2009 allocations — have impacted about 15 percent of all public housing authorities. HUD says that if it determines that additional funding is needed, it will work with Congress on legislative changes to adjust allocations.

The Section 8 funding system is the subject of a bill now working it’s way through Congress. SEVRA — the Section 8 Voucher Reform Act, includes provisions that would create more flexibility and stability in funding formulas for housing assistance. Advocates say it’s a good move forward, but not enough to correct the problem of wholesale voucher terminations, the complete scope of which is still not known.

“There’s no doubt that some of the policy changes that are contained in the SEVRA bill would help make it less likely that this year’s type of situation would recur in future years, so we strongly support that bill, it will give HUD and housing authorities more flexibility in dealing with problems in the future,” says Jeremy Rosen, executive director of the National Policy and Advocacy Council on Homelessness in Washington D.C. “That said, no amount of flexibility can get around the situation where there isn’t enough money for the program. … The policy changes and SEVRA just by themselves won’t change this problem or fix future problems.”

Rosen was among a group of advocates of affordable housing, including the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, National Housing Law Project, and the National Low Income Housing Coalition, that met with HUD to talk about solutions to the current Section 8 crisis. Rosen and others say they will be sending a letter to HUD urging it to ask Congress for additional funds to correct the funding shortage. However, Rosen said that such a request from HUD would be politically unpopular.

“The counter argument, of course, is that you have 285 people in Oregon, not to mention the people in all too many other places around the country where the housing authorities have notified them that they may lose vouchers and could eventually become homeless,” Rosen says. “HUD is sincerely looking at ways to make sure no one actually gets terminated, but it remains to be seen if they can actually accomplish it.”

In June, Street Roots led dozens of organizations around the country to demand that HUD save 100’s of families around the country.

By Joanne Zuhl, Staff Reporter

NW Section 8 casualties get some relief

HUD: An estimated one out of every 200 Oregonians are homeless

Nearly 300 families in Northwest Oregon got some breathing room this month – a one-month extension on assistance to keep them in housing.

In late May, the Northwest Oregon Housing Authority, NOHA, notified 285 recipients of Section 8 housing assistance vouchers that they would be dropped from the program as of July 1. The cuts from the program were caused by a shortfall in funding for the housing authority from the federal Bureau of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, which funds the Section 8 program. In some cases, NOHA was paying 90 percent of the rent for recipients, who stretch across Clatsop, Columbia and Tillamook counties.

In late June, NOHA’s board of directors voted to tap $145,000 in its reserves to pay for the month of July for the effected families. One of those families belongs to Jennifer Cherry, who had nearly all of her family’s rent paid for by NOHA. She and her partner, who are recovering from disabilities, have three children.
“HUD gave us July, so we’ll see what happens for next month,” said Cherry, who said her landlord has also been very helpful during the ordeal.

On Thursday, the OHCS received half of a $15 million relief package from HUD’s new Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program. As the name indicates, the money is to help prevent people from becoming homeless and to rapidly re-house those who have. The funding is part of the economic stimulus package, and includes allocations to Portland, Eugene, Salem and Clackamas and Washington counties. OHCS received nearly $8 million, and will distribute the money to Oregon’s smaller communities and rural areas, including the three-county region covered by NOHA.

“Our intention is to help those folks who had vouchers and were terminated,” says Lisa Joyce, legislative relations manager for OHCS. “We know that they were eligible for assistance.”

Continue reading

The Perfect storm: Northwest Oregon’s Section 8 disaster is being repeated across the country

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From the June 26, edition of Street Roots

It has been called a perfect storm. A rare convergence of forces that, on their own, could possibly be withstood, but in combination are insurmountable, leaving disaster in their wake.

But this no act of God, or Mother Nature, but rather the high-pressure system of government. The storm, in bureaucratic terms, is the ongoing economic derailment compounded by a restricted federal funding system.

The casualties are 285 families in Northwest Oregon who as of July 1 will be terminated from Section 8 assistance, this despite their qualifications and need for the program to secure stable housing. Their provider, the Northwest Oregon Housing Authority, or NOHA, learned in mid-May that it would not be getting the federal Section 8 funding it needed to continue the Section 8 program at current levels. And within weeks, the families were given a 30-day notice of their termination. Continue reading

HUD responds to letter writing campaign

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Street Roots has been following nearly 300 families that are being terminated from Section 8 because of to a numbers game between the Northwest Oregon Housing Authority (NOHA) and the Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

On June 12 Street Roots wrote an indepth piece about the complexities of the situation and has been following a family that’s at risk of becoming homeless through the bureaucratic mishaps that have occurred. Read the story from June 12 here.

On June 8, Sen. Ron Wyden wrote HUD asking for immediate redress. On June 12 Sen. Jeff Merkley and Oregon Congressmen David Wu and Kurt Schrader followed suit.

During the course of writing the June 12 article, Managing Editor Joanne Zuhl discovered that the same is happening in Oregon were also happening in rural Washington, West Virginia, Florida, Idaho and New Jersey.

On June 24 Street Roots published “The Perfect Storm” covering the broader implications of the crisis both locally and nationally.

Street Roots joined forces with more than a dozen organizations around the country and launched a campaign to ask the President, Congress and HUD to save the hundreds of families from being kicked to the curb.

This morning (June 29) Street Roots received a response from HUD saying, “The Department has no additional source of funds to provide.”

Read the entire response below and an interesting press release by HUD. Continue reading

Extra! Extra!

Your summer reading plan gets a little more fun tomorrow morning with the new edition of Street Roots. Your neighborhood vendor can’t wait to deliver the word. Here’s a peak at what’s inside:

june2609page1The perfect storm: A follow-up on the story we broke June 12 about nearly 300 families being terminated from Section 8 due to a numbers game in Northwest Oregon. But the same Section 8 disaster is being repeated across the country, with housing authorities shortchanged in funding to cover the demand in this new economic environment. Joanne Zuhl reports

Here today… Andy Warhol once said that, “In the future everyone will have 15 minutes of fame.” But is that enough these days? An interview with Bill Wasik, the man who gave us “flash mobs” on his new book about instant and fleeting fame. Rosette Royale reports.

Judge: Sit-lie still unconstitutional: Another judge, another ruling against the city – same problem as before. The city’s obstruction as nuisances ordinance does pass constitutional muster, court says. Joanne Zuhl and Israel Bayer report.

Groups helping immigrants survive face legal penalties: Authorities are going after humanitarian groups leaving water for immigrants crossing the desert at the Mexican/U.S. border.

Murnane Wharf, Marvin Ricks remembered with honors: Portland author Michael Munk writes about the loss of the last surviving participant in Portland’s legendary 1934 Longshoreman’s strike — and good news for commemorating the Murnane Wharf.

All this, still at a 20th century price! Get yours today, and chime in with your thoughts!

Posted by Joanne Zuhl

Sen. Wyden calls on HUD to prevent Section 8 terminations, homelessness

Sen. Ron Wyden has written a letter to Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, calling for assistance for the families in Northwest Oregon who are being dropped from rental assistance at the end of the month.

At the end of May, 285 Section 8 recipients in Clatsop, Columbia and Tillamook counties received letters from the Northwest Oregon Housing Authority, or NOHA, informing them that they will be cut from the program by July 1. NOHA said it did not receive the needed funding to be able to keep them enrolled, and that it had surpassed its HUD-approved limit of 1,077 vouchers and had to trim back.

Wyden’s letter:

wydenhudletter

 

Advocates across the state are organizing around this event and calling critical attention to the actions of HUD, its funding formula, and local authorities. Their campaign is reaching lawmakers in Salem and Washington D.C. We’ll keep you posted.

For more on this issue, pick up the current edition of Street Roots, or check out “The Letter.”   To add your voice to Wyden’s in calling for a solution, visit our Act Now.

Posted By Joanne Zuhl

Update: Oregon Senators may be asking head of HUD for redress

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Street Roots reported today that 300 households in NW Oregon are being kicked off of Section 8 assistance, essentially rending them homeless.

On  Thursday and Friday of this week Street Roots joined forces with a broad base of statewide groups, including the Columbia River Business Alliance (Twice in one week), to ask the U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to reinstate the Section 8 vouchers.

The coalition includes, the Columbia County Citizens for Human Dignity, Neighborhood Partnerships, Oregon ON, Columbia River Business Alliance, Sisters Of The Road, Rural Organizing Project, Tillamook County Citizens for Human Dignity, Columbia Pacific Alliance for Social Justice, Latinos Unidos para un Futuro Mejor, and the Western Regional Advocacy Project based in San Francisco. What makes this particular coalition unique is that many of the groups have not worked with one another before, and boiled up organically in a matter of a week.

It may be paying off.

Street Roots was told this evening that a letter went out this week from both Senator Wyden and Merkley along with Representive Wu asking the head of HUD, Shaun Donovan for immediate redress.

Earlier in the week State Sen. Betsy Johnson, who represents Northwest Oregon, told Managing Editor Joanne Zuhl, she doesn’t give a damn about the appropriate metaphor. “At the end of the day, she says, “families are out in the streets because of somebody’s bureaucratic error.”

And lastly, Street Roots was cc’d on an e-mail from a reader who wrote HUD asking for immediate action. Here’s what the HUD officical had to say,

HUD recognizes how critical this situation is for NOHA and we are following up with this case at this time; however, you have to understand that these potential terminations are not related to HCV funding cuts, and that the Department neither has provided funds nor has encouraged the PHAs to lease up for 100% of their baselines, basically because Congress has not provided funds for it. Since 2005 the Department was mandated to allocate the HCV funding on a budget-based, which the PHAs have to efficiently manage to assist the most families possible.

The Office of Housing Voucher Program had a “triage-call” recently with this PHAs, and unfortunately, the facts are that this PHA did not properly managed their unit baseline and ended up over leased and over spending their budget authority, and does not want to consider cost saving measures that were provided to them in the call, which may alleviate their leasing and funding situation, and reducing the terminations.

Regrettably, at this time there are no additional funds that can be provided to the housing authority, other than the set-aside funding, which we know they applied for, but these applications are still under review and we can not assure whether they will be eligible. Given the high volume of applications (over 1,000), these notifications will not be completely disbursed until late July 2009. Some categories might be partially disbursed by the end of this month.

It will be helpful; however, for you and the advocates to encourage the NW Oregon Housing Authority to implement asap those cost saving measures that were provided to minimize the terminations to the lowest possible.

On Monday, we’ll find out if the HUD officials response still stands, if in fact, Oregon legislators have responded in D.C.

Don’t stop now!

Posted by Israel Bayer

The Letter

Jennifer Cherry stands in the doorway of her home, holding the cancellation letter from the housing authority. Photo by Ken Hawkins

Jennifer Cherry stands in the doorway of her home, holding the cancellation letter from the housing authority. Photo by Ken Hawkins

It arrived late May to nearly 300 Section 8 recipients in Northwest Oregon, giving them 30 days to avoid becoming homeless

By Joanne Zuhl
Staff Writer

This summer, unlike the past, held promise for Jennifer Cherry.

After two years on a waiting list, Jennifer and her family finally received their Section 8 voucher and in February found a home. For her and her fiancé, Jeff Crist, and their three children, it meant they could move out of her mother’s house, put her children in good schools in Garibaldi, and concentrate on recovering physically and finding jobs. They each suffered disabilities that left them without work — Jennifer has a herniated disc in her neck and Jeff is recovering from a collision with a logging truck two years ago. But he had recently received his certificate as a flagger and was looking to get on a crew this summer. Next month, Jennifer will go in for surgery to correct her neck.

Yes, there was a lot of potential in the air, right up to the moment Jennifer opened the letter from the housing authority at the start of June.

“Our funding has been reduced significantly effective June 1, 2009 through Dec. 31, 2009. Our only option at this time is to terminate rental assistance for a minimum of 230 program participants…. We apologize for the inconvenience this will cause your family…”

The “inconvenience” poses an insurmountable financial barrier to her family. Jennifer and her fiancé’s combined income is $700 a month through disability assistance. Their rent is $984, of which NOHA paid about 90 percent.

“It has taken so long to get where we’re at, and then to just be pushed out,” Jennifer says, in between silence and tears. “It’s taken us two years to get this far, and in one month we’re supposed to be homeless again?”

Continue reading