Hundreds waited in line to apply for Section 8 housing vouchers in Aiken County Thursday. (WRDW-TV / Oct. 13, 2011)
News 12 at 6 o'clock / Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011
AIKEN COUNTY, S.C. -- It hasn't come around in years, but today was the day -- the only day -- to apply for Section 8 housing in Aiken County.
That goes for people all over the county except for those who want to live in places like the City of Aiken that has its own housing authority.
Hundreds of people showed up to try to apply. Julia Thomas was one of them.
"I have tried before; I'm trying a second time to get some assistance," Thomas said.
She waited the last time they accepted applications eight years ago.
"There weren't as many people then as it is now; I was right in and right out in 45 minutes," Thomas said.
She was waiting for a couple of hours as Section 8 employees like Debra Young filed away endless applications.
"We have done seven other counties, and a couple were big, but I think this may be the biggest one," Young said.
She says there is a clear need in this community; one that they can't fully meet.
"I just wish I could issue vouchers today, but unfortunately, everyone is going to go on a waiting list," Young said. "They have to wait their turn for their name to come up, which may be years."
Section 8 housing gives aid to lower-income families. If you have a voucher, you can use that as financial assistance with any landlord that is willing to participate. The region only get 570 vouchers a year.
"When that is full, you are only replacing people when someone gets off the program, so it is a slow, very slow moving process," she said.
They expect to get about 3,000 applications from all nine counties when all is said and done.
"This is worst I have seen in my 18 years of being with the housing authority," Young said.
This is a sad reality for Young.
"When you have got people coming in that have lost their jobs and living in a shelter or just don't have anywhere to go, it really hurts your heart when there is nothing you can do but take their application and put them on the waiting list," she said.
So those waiting won't just be in line today, they might be waiting a lot longer.
"I feel like it is worth it," Thomas said.
And Lashonda Henderson feels the same way.
"I have three kids and one on the way," Henderson said. "I just want a bigger home and a nicer home and one in a nice community."