Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Help Me Howard: Section 8
Many people will be homeless without the government paying their rent through programs such as Section 8 Housing. One South Florida woman lost her Section 8 voucher, but her landlord didn't have the heart to evict her. Instead, he called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- Most people want to own property. Many want to be a landlord. But Chris will tell you it's not all it's cracked up to be.
Christopher Campbell, Landlord: "No. Not these days.
Chris Campbell owns a couple of Section 8 properties.
Christopher Campbell: "I repainted it, I put in blinds."
Fixed it up, and in return, the government pays his tenants' rent each month.
Christopher Campbell: "They pay you according to what the tenant makes. If they don't work, they fully supplement their income."
Lucrece Cossy is Chris's tenant, one of nearly 48,000 people in Dade, 14,000 in Broward, a total of 62,000 people in South Florida who get part or all of their rent paid by the government.
Lucrece says if Uncle Sam didn't pay her $1045 monthly rent, she would be homeless.
But in November, Lucrece did not renew her Section 8 voucher, and Chris did not get the rent money.
Christopher Campbell: "She overlooked the letter because of her lack of English. She is from Haiti, and she speaks Creole."
Chris called the Section 8 office and was told to move another Section 8 tenant in to replace Lucrece.
Christopher Campbell: "'She is not Section 8 no more. Evict her.' I'm like, 'What?'"
If Lucrece loses her Section 8 voucher, she has to go back in line: a waiting list with 73,000 people just in Miami-Dade County. So Chris tried to get her reinstated.
Christopher Campbell: "Me and her went down there, as a matter of fact, and we submitted and made sure. 'Oh no, give us 10 days.' 10 days turned into five months."
And for five months, Chris has not gotten a rent check from Lucrece and Section 8.
Patrick Fraser: "Why can't she get a job?"
Christopher Campbell: "Nobody wants to employ anybody right now, especially an old lady."
Without her Section 8 voucher, Lucrece can't pay her rent money, and Chris can't bear to do what he needs to do: evict her.
Christopher Campbell: "Where is she going to go?
Patrick Fraser: "You don't want to throw her out on the street."
Christopher Campbell: "I really don't want to do that. I couldn't live with myself. Sometimes, it's more than about money."
But it is about the money, and if Lucrece can't get government assistance, Chris has to make a decision: does he evict her or wait for the bank to foreclose on him?
Christopher Campbell: "That is a question I can't answer when I reach that bridge. But right now, I am optimistic."
Well, Howard, 73,000 people are waiting for public housing in Miami-Dade County. Did Lucrece's mistake legally throw her to the back of the line, or can she get reinstated?
Howard Finkelstein: "Yes, the government can throw her out of the program, because she didn't follow the rules and regulations as required. However, they have discretion and can reinstate her. In this case, it's up to Miami-Dade County."
When we spoke to Miami-Dade Public Housing, they offered to help reinstate Lucrece's Section 8 voucher. That's important because if she lost the voucher, I was told she would probably be out of the program permanently. However, Lucrece made it difficult to help her when she didn't return the agency's calls.
Finally, Chris met with the county. Not only did they reinstate Lucrece's Section 8 voucher, Chris says they paid him the five months' back rent that Lucrece owed him: $5,225.
Chris says he learned a lot from this: that he will make sure his tenants keep up with their Section 8, and not only is he thankful to get his rent checks, he is motivated.
Christopher Campbell: "Thank Patrick Fraser and his staff and Section 8 for coming through. I hope I use this help and use this energy to help somebody else in the future."
Patrick Fraser: "The numbers are interesting: 62,000 people in South Florida getting part or all of their rent paid by the government. Some taxpayers will look at that number and say, 'Cut it.' Some will look at the hundreds of thousands trying to get free housing and say, 'Increase it.' Those are the kind of decisions politicians get paid to make."
Housing a problem you would pay to remove? Ready for some free assistance? You don't need a voucher. Just a phone call or e-mail to us will do.