Thousands rush to join Section 8 waiting list

Thousands rush to join Section 8 waiting list

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Long before the Section 8 offices on Bethel Street and at Kapolei Hale opened Thursday morning, people were in line to sign up.

Yolanda Mersberg used the computer at Kapolei to fill out her application. It's the first day Oahu residents can apply to get on the waiting list in hopes of landing a housing voucher that'll help them pay the rent.

'I'm not picky," Mersberg said. "I just want a nice place where I can have my kids and my grandchildren."

Gerilynn Jesus didn't get on the Section 8 wait list before it closed nine years ago. She's desperate to make it this time.

"I really, really need to get on it because I'm on disability, Social Security, and my rent is $1,350 a month," she said.

The city started accepting online applications at midnight. When the offices closed at 4:30 p.m., 5,860 people had applied.

City Department of Community Services director Pam Witty-Oakland said not everyone who applies during the next week will get on the list. But random selection ensures applicants will have an equal shot to join about 500 others who are waiting for rental help.

"They'll get first priority. But we wanted to be able to open up the application process so each month as we have turnover, we're able to have a new pool of families that we can assist," Witty-Oakland said.

She said people who plan to apply need to be aware of scammers who say they'll help you sign up for a price.

"The only place they can apply are at the city satellite offices, and those non-profits that are designated on the city's web site. If anybody is asking to charge you a fee for an application, they're not legit," she said.

Mersberg is a single mom with four sons. She sleeps on a couch at a relative's home. She barely gets by.

"Right now I'm on Social Security due to health issues," she said.

The Section 8 application period runs through May 21. Applicants know making the final cut is a long shot.

"I'm still going to try and get on the list and be positive about it," Jesus said. "I hope one day they'll call my name."

Thousands of people are hoping the same thing.

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