Friday, July 12, 2013

Defend your Elders! A message from Barry, a resident in the Northbay

For those of you who have been around for awhile, you are probably aware of how we came up with this idea from the situation with long time Sonoma County activist Barry Ponneck finding out he did not have the section 8 voucher he thought he had. Here is the situation in his own words.
Life on the lean side!
When you look back at the legacy of the Nixon Administration, you probably recall Watergate, the escalation in Viet Nam, the bombing of Cambodia, or his virulent anti-communist mind set. However, I doubt if you think about Richard Nixon when waiting in vain to receive your Housing Choice (Section 8) Vouchers. Well, you can thank "Tricky Dick" and the 1974 Congress for the passage of The Housing and Redevelopment Act of 1974, further amending the U.S. Housing Act of 1937, to create the Section 8 Program. As far as receiving those vouchers, if you¹re on the waiting list, which is anywhere from 3 ­5 years, don¹t hold your breath. If you currently possess the coveted voucher, be forewarned that it might be taken back. Why?
Sequestration! The recently enacted federal across-the-board budget cuts. As part of this horrific legislation are the massive cuts in funding to the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV)(Section 8) program. The program is estimated to cut $938 million this year. These projected cuts will cause from 100,000 to 140,000 to lose rental assistance over the next 12 months. In California, we're talking about 306,341 families who were recipients of federal rental support, in 2012. Out of those, 15,676 households could very likely be at risk of losing their housing assistance. Over half the population of those receiving housing assistance are seniors and disabled. The remaining High Risk population is comprised of the homeless, children, and the working poor.
I'm soon to be 62, disabled with a progressive degenerative disease; I live on a fixed income ($12,036 annually), which means I fall into at least 3 of the vastly underserved categories; senior, disabled, and living below the poverty line. Due to circumstances beyond my control, I find myself currently taking up residence in a skilled nursing facility. I am acutely aware of how extremely fortunate I am, to have a place to hang my hat and three meals a day, although I question the nutritional value as well as the subtle and discriminating taste. However, the cumulative impact on my mental health is increasingly evident and I mean that seriously. I¹ve been told more times then I care to remember, that there is always someone worse off then yourself, and there is no denying that a truer statement is hard to find. But as my Jewish, Russian/Polish Grandmother was fond of saying "the boil's not under your arm". Which can be interpreted to mean, "Your suffering does not diminish my pain".
I have been living in the SNF for 10 months, and have been unsuccessfully trying to secure a more independent, less restrictive environment. Not more then two weeks ago, I was gradually moving forward towards acquiring an apartment in Santa Rosa. I followed all the rules, provided everything that was asked of me, and patiently waited for the final confirmation. In conjunction with Burbank Housing, I was working with a local agency that provides services to people with disabilities and was mistakenly told by them that a Section 8 Voucher automatically came with the apartment, which was not true.
Recently I was able to meet with the Manager of the Sonoma County Housing Authority, who informed me that there have been no Vouchers available since 2006. Going into this meeting I had no specific expectations. I only desired clarification, which was forthcoming. Even so, I walked out of the meeting a bit numb, highly disappointed, and with a growing sense of hopelessness! How many others are being told they may have to wait up to five years for a voucher? How many of us have five years left in their lives for such a wait???

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