Filled With HOPE

The Federal HOPE VI program is changing the face of public housing.

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When Section 8 did their annual inspection, her apartment failed, and the program stopped paying her rent. She says that she was unaware that her Section 8 had been canceled until she started getting eviction notices about two months later. By then it was too late. Her rent was in arrears, and her landlord charged her with damaging the apartment. He assessed more than $2,000 in fines.

When McDanieal went to see her THA caseworker in a panic, she was told that nothing could be done. She was referred to the Urban League, she says, but she failed to see what they could do for her and declined the offer. She cried and pleaded but still got no help, she says. She finally left her apartment and moved in with a relative in Robles Park.

"I just gave up practically when I moved over here," she says.

Connie Burton saw her around and asked what happened to her new apartment. After hearing her story, Burton took her to see Section 8 manager Clarence Brown. A review of McDanieal's file shows she was cut off in error, and her voucher was reinstated.

Now her biggest problem is that in the time between moving from Ponce de Leon and ending up in Robles Park, McDanieal gave birth to a son. Landlords are reluctant to rent a two-bedroom apartment to a woman with three children. She needs a three-bedroom voucher, and so far the housing authority won't give her one.

"They said HOPE VI was going to do this and going to do that, but who'd it help?" she asks.

She would be happy with an apartment in Robles Park, she says, but THA won't give her that either, even though she is left without a home of her own, due to HOPE VI relocation.

While Brown does not dispute that McDanieal's Section 8 voucher was revoked or that he helped her to get reinstated, he notes that not all of her story is accurate. Not all of the issues were the landlord's, he says. "I don't want to get too specific into her case," he says. "There were issues on the client's side that needed to be resolved."

Of McDanieal's inability to find an apartment with her voucher he says, "Our policy is just that; it's ours. We can't dictate what the landlord's policy would be." Based on the housing authority's policy, McDanieal's two girls could share a bedroom and she and her infant son could share another. She would not be eligible for another bedroom until her son is age 4. Brown has since moved to reduce that requirement to age 2.

The HOPE VI relocation basically gave McDanieal the option for Section 8 or for placement in another public housing project. Once that choice is made, it can't be undone, says Brown, although McDanieal can sign up for the public housing project's waiting list.

"She needs to continue her search and I would encourage her to get in touch with the Urban League," says Brown.

The Urban League is another point of disagreement between Brown and McDanieal. She says that the first time she heard of the Urban League was when her caseworker said she couldn't help her and suggested she call the League. Prior to that day, she says, she did not receive a phone call, visit or piece of mail from the agency. Brown says that both the Urban League and THA have sent mass mailings to residents at least twice and he's skeptical of residents who say they're unaware that the agency offers assistance.

Whether she got a flier from the Urban League or not, once she was cut off from Section 8 they couldn't have done much to help her, says Urban League service manager Reynolds. Had McDanieal come to her office rather than to Burton, all Reynolds could have done was try to get her temporary emergency housing. The Urban League can't reinstate a canceled Section 8 voucher or negotiate with the housing authority. They can't force landlords to take McDanieal's voucher for a two-bedroom apartment or move her up the public housing waiting list.


Just before press time, McDanieal found a new apartment. While riding her bike through a Tampa Heights neighborhood, she saw a For Rent sign and jotted down the number. She contacted the landlord and arranged to take a look. "I fell in love with it," she says.

Having been without a permanent home since June, she needed to move in quickly, and Brown arranged for her to do just that, she says. Her new place has three bedrooms and plenty of space for her three children. Though she still misses the Ponce de Leon community, she says she's happy where she is.

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