Section 8 participants worry sequestration cuts will make them homeless

Section 8 participants worry sequestration cuts will make them homeless
Updated: Feb. 27, 2013 at 6:38 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii families who get federal help to pay their rent fear they may be homeless soon if Congress doesn't stop a five percent funding cut to housing programs.

The sequestration cuts are hitting home for thousands of people in Hawaii who got a letter warning them their rent check won't be in the mail. And for the low income people affected it could be enough to put them on the street.

"I'm scared. I'm scared, frickin scared. I don't know what to do," said Steven Campbell, Section 8 Participant.

Steven Campbell, 55, is disabled with hip and knee problems.  He fixes computers but relies on the government.

"Why are you doing this to me? I can't stand this. I don't know if I'm going to be able to live here or not," said Campbell.

He lives in a small studio apartment near the University of Hawaii Manoa.  Rent is $950 a month, but $450 of that comes from Section 8 housing assistance.

He and the more than 3,500 tenants who get similar assistance just got a frightening letter saying their section 8 voucher may be cut because of the federal dispute over funds.

"I'll be homeless. I'll be homeless. I'll be living on the street. I will live on the street.  I can't afford the rent here. Without the section 8 I can't afford it," said Campbell. "It's horrifying. It's scary. I don't know what I'm going to do."

He says he's been trying to get Section 8 for ten years and just got on six months ago.  The letter says those newest to the program will be cut first.

"How come? Why are you screwing me? I don't understand why you are screwing me," said Campbell.

"The notice we sent to our voucher holders was really an opportunity to give them advance notice so they can plan. We know they rely heavily on our subsidies for their rental payments and we certainly didn't want them caught totally off guard," said Pamela Witty-Oakland, Honolulu Department of Community Services Director Designate.

The city says if cuts are made Friday the federal government should still pay the rent for March and April, but by May the rent check won't be sent if there is no resolution.  It will be up to the 1,400 landlords, who got the letter as well, to decide when to start the eviction process.

"So it's going to be up to them to work with those tenants to see if there are other options," said Witty-Oakland. "There is about 60 days from the time we know and the time they'll get notice."

"You're just the messenger at this point?" we ask.

"That's correct. We're waiting to hear the news from Washington DC and just assure the public we will provide as much current information that we can get our hands on," said Witty-Oakland.

State housing programs are also expecting a more than 5.2 percent across the board cut.  The state expects to get the numbers tomorrow on how many people it will affect.

Other HUD programs to be cut statewide under sequestration:

487 Hawaii families receiving housing vouchers are estimated to be cut, along with $1,512,703 in public housing funding.

$634,615 in Community Development Block Grants (CDBG)

$644, 307 in Homeless Assistance, and $34,049 in Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA)

So far Campbell is not packing his bags but his emotions are filling up fast.

"It's possible I'm going to be living on the street," said Campbell. "I just don't think that is fair."

To view the estimated cuts in federal housing assistance from the Center on Budget and Policy Procedures click here.

To read the letter sent to Section 8 participants click here.

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