100 HAP Clients Housed
August 14, 2017 by BFC
Guest Author: Stacey Johnson, Housing Access Program Manager at Bread for the City
Since September 2010, Bread for the City has been helping DC residents navigate the maze of subsidized housing through our Housing Access Program (HAP). Through many twists and turns and ups and downs, our commitment to affordable housing for all DC residents remains strong. This year, we achieved a milestone in that effort with 100 HAP clients housed!
This is a phenomenal feat given that we are working within a broken system. There are about 100 privately owned subsidized apartment buildings in DC offering truly affordable housing: i.e. a tenant’s rent is calculated at 30% of their household income. All of these buildings manage their own waiting lists for their units, with wait times anywhere from 2-10 years. To make matters worse, at any given time, there may be only 18-20 waiting lists that are accepting applications, with all of the other buildings having closed their lists because they are already too long. The entire process is decentralized, with no central repository for up to date information. Once a building has opened their waiting list, applicants must fill out lengthy and complicated applications, provide several ID documents, and sometimes have a window of only 1 hour during which they can submit the application.
It doesn’t make much sense that a procedure in place to help those with the fewest resources is one which demands jumping through the greatest number of hoops. Subsidized apartment buildings are all over DC, hidden in plain sight. HAP was created as a way to help streamline and centralize both education and assistance for people in need of truly affordable housing.
To commemorate our milestone achievement, Bread for the City shares with you the story of Anita, our housed client number 100!:
“It wasn’t real for me until they put the key in my hand. Then I felt like I could breathe. It had been almost two years since I was put on the waitlist at [that apartment building] and over five years from my first visit to Bread for the City’s housing clinic. They had contacted me two weeks before to tell me I was coming up on the list, but, after waiting for so long, I didn’t think much of it. However, on that day, I went there under the impression I was just going to complete more paperwork. When the property manager told me I was there because I got the apartment and I should move in on June 1st, I just couldn’t believe it.”
Anita had worked for the government for 32 years when she lost her job. She had to sell her home, wound up living in her car, and was feeling incredibly overwhelmed. She came to Bread for the City for help.
“I appreciate everything that Bread for the City has done for me since the first day I came through their doors. Stacey [HAP Manager] was very helpful and supportive. She kept up with me and whenever I needed someone to call she was right there. She kept encouraging me, which was so important. I realized that because the system is so messed up you have to put in the work to really get something out of this.”
Without a program like HAP, community members like Anita would have to individually monitor all 100 buildings on a regular basis to find out when each waiting list might open and what documents are needed to apply. Some buildings hold one-day events requiring interested applicants to stand in line for hours in order to get a spot on a waiting list. HAP does all of the monitoring for their participants, and then sends out text and email alerts when there is a new housing opportunity.
“[When a waiting list opens,] you try to get there early, but it’s never early enough. The [rental] office may not open till 9:00 am or 10:00 am. You get there by 7:00 am and there is a line around the block already waiting with 100 people, just to get on a wait list. I have stayed in the cold overnight just to get a number to come back and do an application to be placed on the waitlist. One winter, my daughter and I heard about an open waitlist and we bundled up blankets and pillows and chairs and sat outside in the cold just to get a number. We would take turns waiting in line. I would go in the car with the heat on to thaw out then go back and replace her in line and she would do the same.”
“[Bread for the City doesn’t] have control over the wait list, but just to know that you have an advocate to give information and support tools [is important]. I took the tools and worked them in my favor. It’s very humbling to know that there are programs like HAP dedicated to helping people in situations like mine.”
Anita’s perseverance in securing stable housing is inspiring, and we are so happy that she is counted as one of our first 100 housed clients. We look forward to sharing with you the next 100 and beyond!
When someone moves into a new apartment after years of homelessness, they often need furniture and other household items. If you’d like to help welcome someone to their new home, send your gift card donations or welcome baskets to Bread for the City, ℅ Volunteer & In Kind Manager, 1525 7th Street NW, Washington DC 20001.