SAN FRANCISCO — A homeless woman who cares for her disabled brother during the day while working a job at night has found it nearly impossible to find housing, even with her brother eligible for housing assistance.
For tens of thousands of people in the Bay Area waiting for housing assistance, the housing shortage has made housing scarce, expensive and very difficult to secure, especially with government-issued vouchers. It’s a complex process that can leave some people waiting years before buying a home.
One of them wasfind housing with a Section 8 voucher. She lives in his car while he sleeps in a family member’s apartment.
After a year-long search, technically homeless, they almost got an apartment in San Francisco. Closing the deal will take seven days of unpredictable ups and downs.
“I’m here because we’re waiting for a HAP letter,” Latrice Washington explained, arriving at the offices of the San Francisco Housing Authority. “It’s a housing payment form. I’m trying to see if I can get a letter instead of waiting for them to send an email, because I don’t want my brother to lose another place. That’s what happened last time, just standing there waiting.”
Trying to complete a year-long housing search, Latrice says the best approach is in person, and this morning it paid off.
“Yes! I got the letter,” she shouted as she exited the building. “This is the letter for my brother to move into his house. Yes, boy, you just don’t know.”
And with everything seemingly nailed down, it starts to feel like a home is within reach, just a matter of putting that last piece of paper back, until there’s something new.
“Yeah, they need to check to see if he has to pay any additional amount, on top of the $900 bond,” she said. “I hope it’s just $900.”
It’s not just $900. Turns out it’s over $3,000, needed in two days. For someone living out of their car to support a disabled sibling, this is an immediate financial emergency.
“So when I looked at it, I said $3,390,” Latrice said upon seeing the cost. “So I got discouraged again. I was like, ‘Just let me make a few calls. So I called a few places.”
One was the agency where her brother had previously received help, the North Bay Housing Coalition in Fairfield. They agreed to lend him the money, repaid in installments of $300. And that’s the kind of emergency help often needed to save a home search like this.
“Absolutely, and it’s sad, some people lose their voucher because they can’t find a place to accept a voucher,” explained Mary Eble, Executive Director of the Coalition. “The challenge because the owners may not want to accept the voucher, it’s a government program. I can get more money if they don’t use the voucher. So it’s very difficult to put everything in place. ”
“I feel like putting my feet up like this,” Latrice said as she walked out of the office.
The optimism and excitement will only last for the drive back to San Francisco.
“I need to get a promissory note from the apartment for the first month’s rent,” she said when she couldn’t collect the keys. “I had no knowledge of it. I was just told yesterday that I was going to post bail. I was so excited. I haven’t slept since I left work. I’m tired.”
So it’s another day and another trip back to the housing office.
“So I’m still here this morning,” she said as she got out of the car. “Just got off work. I’m tired, but I’m on my way. Hope they call my number.”
But this time, there are no answers.
“The housing authority told me they don’t do promissory letters,” she sighed. “We did everything we were supposed to do. We brought the bail. Brought the paperwork..”
It would take two more days and some help from the town itself, but the last problem was solved, the papers could be signed and the keys were finally in hand.
“It’s a perfect little house,” she said during the first guided tour. “He can move on his own. Do you like your new home?
Latrice and Adolphus Washington are now assembling the house, largely from scratch. But for the first time in a long time, there is no rush.
“It’s a good feeling to be at home,” Latrice said of the new home. “I’m just determined. It’s all about determination, and how badly do you want it. My job is 10 minutes away. Everything is going well. It feels good. It’s better than being outside .”
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