The Huntsville Housing Authority opened up the wait list for Section 8 housing vouchers Tuesday morning.
People can apply for the vouchers through April 15th at 4:30 p.m.
In the windows of the Oscar Mason Center, fluttering signs instruct any would be Section 8 applicants that might show up in person. They encourage people to use the website and certainly not to wait in line. There's no need.
Inside, a white board picks up the trail to the computer lab where some have come to register for the wait list that could change everything.
Director of assisted housing Paula Bingham keeps the success stories of the program close to her heart. She says there are lots of them, like a single mother who Bingham remembers helping get through school when she started eleven years ago, "When she graduated she came to me and said her first job offer was in Atlanta, that she was making over $100,000 a year as a registered nurse."
You can see why people clamor for the opportunity, and a lot of time passed since they last got one.
Bingham notes, "In 2009 we opened for two days and got about 2,200 applications, and there's still people on that list from 2009 who haven't gotten a voucher yet."
They try to help wait-listers as fast as possible. "We actually issued about fifty vouchers last month, and we expect to issue another fifty this month," points out Bingham.
Because when you get to the top of the list, you have a real shot at getting ahead.
Bingham explains, "They pay 30% of their monthly income for rent and utilities, and we subsidize the rest up to a certain amount." You can qualify if you make less than half of the median income. For reference, that's just under $35,000 for a family of four.
That can make the difference for people like the single mother that Bingham remembers vividly, "She couldn't have done it. She couldn't have done it without help."
Now Rena Powell seeks that same help. She came in the very first morning of the application process. She knows the form just puts her in a lottery. Getting here first doesn't guarantee her a higher place on the wait list. Yet still, she shows up before noon on the very first day.
Powell says, "It would mean so much for me and my grandchildren. I have custody of three of my grandchildren, two boys and a girl, and we really do need to be on this program. It would help us so much."
Like most who will visit the housing authority's website to apply, anything helps.
Powell goes on, "I'm disabled, and so, there are days when I can't do a whole lot of things, because of the medication I'm on. I have to rest and things like that, but I do the best I can as far as taking care of my kids, because they are mine."
Winning the lottery - quite literally - and finding her application at the top of the list, she says, "It'd be the blessing I'm looking for."
By noon on Tuesday, a few dozen people showed up to the housing authority in person to apply, but over a thousand already submitted online.
That's why Powell enlists the help of her grandkids, two boys and a girl, "I was telling them that I was going to go and apply. I said, let's just pray that we get accepted into the program, so we are all praying."
The Huntsville Housing Authority asks that you apply online. You can find the application here.