When you need emergency housing assistance, navigating the program can seem like a daunting task. There are ways to increase your chances of a fast approval, and even qualify for temporary emergency housing, if you take the time to research and document everything you will need.
Follow these steps to improve your experience in applying for Section 8, also called the Housing Choice Voucher program. This program provides subsidized housing for low-income people. Most people will have to pay a small portion, usually 10 percent, of the market rate rent for a place to live.
Have Documentation Ready
You will need to document everyone who is living in your home, including all adults and children. Before you even contact any government agency, you will need the social security numbers of everyone in your household. If you do not know them, seek out school or tax records to help you out.
Also, every adult needs to show whether or not he or she is working, and you should get W-2s for the previous year (or tax returns) in addition to a current pay stub. If you have a new job, ask your employer for a letter of employment with your pay stated on it.
Contact Apartment Communities
While you can get a house through Section 8, doing so can be difficult and include a lengthy waiting list. Your best bet will be to find an apartment complex. While there are entire complexes designated for people with Section 8 vouchers, they also fill quickly.
Call around to some apartment communities where you may want to live and find out whether they accept people with housing vouchers and whether or not they have vacancies. Going into the process knowing a couple of places where you may be able to live is preferable than just going in blindly.
Local Social Services
Once you have gathered your documentation and have searched for some available properties, you should look to the website for HUD, or Housing and Urban Development. This federal agency is the funding arm of the Housing Choice Voucher program, and their website (http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD) has information for the appropriate agency to contact for each state.
After finding your state, determine if you meet one of the “priority placement groups.” These priority placement lists allow people who are most likely to need emergency housing to get it. Domestic violence victims and people who have been evicted often top this list. Should you qualify for housing under one of these programs, then you will have a better chance of getting a housing voucher within a day or two.
Contact your local agency whether you believe that you qualify as a priority placement or not. You will need to fill out the applications immediately to get on the list for assistance. In some cases, you may be able to get temporary emergency housing, even if it is not in an apartment or other place where you will stay, especially if you are a victim of violence or will face immediate homelessness if you are not placed.
Immediate homelessness is also usually a top priority placement although you may have to go to a homeless shelter for a few days before you can be placed in Section 8 housing. Do whatever the caseworker tells you will be the best choice and keep pushing to get immediate permanent housing assistance. Caseworkers often are overwhelmed, and you need to be your own best advocate.
Steel Yourself for a Wait
Some cities and states have waits that may be as long as two years. While that timeframe seems insurmountable to someone facing a serious financial situation, get on the list anyway. You may not even need to get assistance in two years – or even six months – but getting on the list will put you in a place to get a spot should one open up. In the meantime, begin to look for landlords who may be willing to apply to get section 8 approval. If your current landlord will consider going this route, then you may be able to stay where you are and get help. While these applications take time, they can provide enormous help when they finally come through.