Action Report: Families applying for Section VIII Housing must w - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Action Report: Families applying for Section VIII Housing must wait years

Michael Austin of Long Beach is one of thousands of unemployed workers in South Mississippi. He's seeking housing assistance for his family, but may have to wait years for help. (Photo source: WLOX) Michael Austin of Long Beach is one of thousands of unemployed workers in South Mississippi. He's seeking housing assistance for his family, but may have to wait years for help. (Photo source: WLOX)
GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

The high rate of unemployed only adds to the list of people seeking Section VIII housing. Michael Austin of Long Beach is one of thousands of unemployed workers in South Mississippi. Out of work since March, Austin is struggling to support his family.

"We haven't been paying the rent because of that and everything," Austin said.

With no job and unable to pay rent, Austin, his girlfriend, and their three sons are on the verge of being evicted.

"He's wanting us out. He's wanting to evict us."

Austin said his family is receiving food stamps and Medicaid benefits, but when he contacted Section 8 Housing he was told there's 
a long waiting list. So, how long will it take for someone on the waiting list to receive Section VIII housing?

Jessie Billups is the Interim Executive Director for Section VIII Housing with the Mississippi Regional Housing Authority in Gulfport. Billups says 6,797 families are on the waiting list for the Housing Choice Voucher Program.

"We've even had people on the waiting list for three years. So, it kind of depends what location you're in or what priority you have on that waiting list," Billups said. "Typically speaking, we are able to bring in about 40, 45 to 50 people on per month."

Billups explained that there are two housing choices in the voucher program: Tenant Based housing and Project Based housing. For people like Michael Austin, he recommends they fill out the housing application.

"If a person is seeking assistance, we'd like for them to at least come in and get information. Because although the Tenant Based Voucher is closed right now, we have Project Based Voucher units that we do own and operate where you may have a better and quicker opportunity to get in one of those properties, "said Billups. "And the good thing about going to one of the Project Based Voucher Units, it gives you a priority.  At the end of one year, you can request a Tenant Based Voucher."

Billups said unless more government money becomes available for public housing, the long waiting list will remain.

"Obviously, there's always a waiting list for people who want to get rental units or assistance with their rent because there's such a great number of people who are in need," Billups said. "That's been that way forever, and I don't see that changing anytime soon."

Billups said it could change if more jobs become available, giving people opportunities to support themselves and their families.

Anyone interested in signing up for Section VIII housing should visit the Mississippi Regional Housing Authority office at 10430 Three Rivers Road in Gulfport. There's also an office in Moss Point.

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