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How Do Homeless People Get Into Section 8 Housing?

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) conducted a survey in 2015 that reflected that Section 8 housing subsidy program was more effective than any other housing assistance program, at minimizing Homelessness. The vouchers were considered as more than just crisis assistance in offering secure housing.

According to the public housing estimates, the subsidies are never enough to meet the need for such assistance, and also that the subsidies kept on reducing.

How hard is it for a homeless person to get on Section 8 housing

There are a variety of eligibility requirements for Section 8 housing, which differ by state and sometimes the city. These requirements can be burdensome and completing the process can be difficult for many homeless, worsened by the fact that many have substance abuse and/or mental health issues.

The fact really depends on the following factors:

  • How many vouchers are in the system in a given area as they are not distributed evenly
  • How certain state/ region is taxed for the local voucher pool and the status of the housing market there.
  • Number of people with preference is on the list already and if the person applying has a preference
  • How many vouchers there are and are new vouchers injected in the system from the Fed

For example, in highly taxed areas, rents have shot up a good deal in the last few years, where new construction has been slow to meet demand. There is a low vacancy rate in such areas and population not making it a high priority to get new vouchers from the Fed so the system is very dependent on ‘churn’ of the voucher given up by people who already have them.

This creates a storm, and people with a preference have a wait of 6–10 years, people without one have very little chance of getting top of the waiting list.

What is “preferences”?

People applying for Section 8 come from two pools of applications, those are:

  • Preference: Elderly (65+), Families with Children, Non-Elderly Disabled persons, and Veterans.
  • Non-Preference: People who do not fall in the above categories or can’t prove it, but who meet the financial requirements a: The Poor/ homeless.
  • An exception takes place if the homeless person is particularly referred to the Housing Authority by DHS (the Department of Homeless Services).

In practice, people with a ‘preference’ get vouchers first. During the process of people in the first categories apply; people in the second group keep waiting. In numerous places that means forever.

The sheer homelessness in and of itself is not a preference within the Section 8 system. There are undersized ‘pilot programs’ that serve a handful of people in an individual state, but its insufficient and totally unapproachable once full. In certain cases, communities will have extra vouchers for homeless households, but this is also exceptional.

How to approach

  1. If you are homeless and eligible and in need of a voucher, you have to prove you have a preference. In case of your being over 65 years or having young children, it is as simple by providing some common identifying documents.
  2. Being disabled is not as straight forward, particularly true if you have a clear disability, don’t receive SSDI, and have limited to no treatment history. In this case, you file a non-preference application and need to upgrade it by proving you are disabled through gathering old records and seeking new lines of treatment.
  3. For veterans, it can be an equally annoying and long road. There are special vouchers for veterans whose service history is solid. Generally, people qualify for lesser and varying degrees of services from a prompt provision of a voucher to nothing at all. To find out where one falls can be a hard exercise. Some qualify for short term housing assistance but not ongoing ones. For example, one may not get a Veteran focused Section 8 voucher, but might get SSVF services which will pay rent for a shorter time.


  1. Before the provision of this assistance, applicants will undergo a criminal background check. Federal law excludes Section 8 vouchers for registered sex offenders or who were convicted of making methamphetamine in public housing. Normally, illegal drug use will keep you out of Section 8 housing.
  2. Your proceeds may not exceed one-half of the average income for where you live and your family size. Even if you meet the 50 percent ceiling, you might have narrow chances to get Section 8 housing. Federal regulations reserve 75 % admissions for those whose income is 30 percent or less of the area mean income.
  3. Households can be eligible with one or more elderly or disabled residents under the care of a live-in aid or who are heads of the house or spouses; an elderly or disabled person may live alone and qualify as a family. However, unrelated occupants are not eligible unless they can prove a significant relationship.

The Section 8 system is a very intricate one with many factors going into a wait time. It is not pretty clear how long your wait will be.

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