Need for housing assistance creates long line of hundreds

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - By noon today, about 275 people weathered cold, pounding rain outside the Nacogdoches Housing Authority. The first in line arrived well before daybreak. "I got here at 2:30," said one woman at the front of the line. They do that knowing applications are reviewed on a first come basis. There are so many because this is the first application process for HUD financial assistance since last January.

"It's a very popular program because it does allow the applicant an opportunity to have free choice," explained Mary McKay, intake coordinator for the Housing Authority. "They can go out and this gives an applicant an opportunity to have free choice. They can go out in the community themselves, find a community where they want to live, so long as the landlord is one of our approved HUD landlords."

Intake workers were expecting a line, but nothing like this. "Now don't shove anyone, " advised a worker at the front door when the doors opened at noon. Those in line were eager, but in good humor. Some brought chairs. Some used walkers and crutches. "I had an amputation of my leg," said one man in line. "So it kinda puts me in a way I can't work."

Many applicants were denied last time, but this year income restrictions are less stringent. This gives a single mom more hope. McKay calls them, "The invisiable poor because many of them don't show up on the state's information."

A tougher economy brings in first timers. Social security checks aren't going as far as they once did. Rojean Williams, 73, said, "Everything is going higher. It takes everything."

And then there are the homeless. Some followed family members displaced by recent hurricanes.  Mary Porter has faith she'll leave a homeless shelter soon. "Yes, I have faith in God. May God work miracles," said Porter. A cross hanging on the wall behind her was pointed out. Her confidence got even stronger.

Most will stay in their current homes, but have additional income to pay the rent. Housing availability is sufficient according to intake workers. More landlords are accepting HUD tenants.