During nine days in October, 74,000 households in Baltimore signed up for a lottery to get on the Section 8 housing voucher waiting list. 25,000 of them will be selected. Once on the waiting list, the odds are stacked against them; they’ll have a one in four chance of actually getting a voucher over the next six years. In 2020, the lottery for the waiting list opens back up once again.
Many of us—myself included—seized the opportunity to point out both the dystopian nature of this process and the failure of federal policies that drive disinvestment in affordable housing. This morning, the Baltimore Sun published our commentary on the housing lottery, pointing out that something as important as housing shouldn’t be left to chance.
Nevertheless, Health Care for the Homeless stepped up to ensure that everyone who needs housing got in the lottery.
With two weeks’ notice HCH, along with others in Baltimore’s advocacy and service provider community, rallied to advertise the enrollment window and set up enrollment assistance at eight locations to complement the Housing Authority of Baltimore City’s sites. One of those was here at HCH. And with passion and commitment, our community kicked into gear. We recruited, trained, and encouraged 20 volunteers from all walks of life to help applicants with the web-based application. We made sure that folks understood what they were—and were not—getting by throwing their hats in the ring.
HCH volunteers worked four-hour shifts during every hour the clinic was open, and signed up 393 households.
Well-executed news stories offer more detail about the lottery enrollment and how it unfolded at HCH and across the city: a WMAR story by Katrina Bush and a Baltimore Sun story in the Sun by Yvonne Wegner.
In true HCH form, our staff and volunteers made us proud. While the lottery enrollment comes with no guarantees, clients who signed up here at HCH left feeling cared for and informed about the process. I want to extend a heart-felt thank you to HCH volunteers and the staff who made this possible—with a very special shout-out to our Volunteer Coordinator Patrick Diamond, who organized and oversaw the HCH effort.
Only good things can flow from this kind of dedication, which makes me incredibly hopeful for our work to prevent and end homelessness moving forward. While such dedication plays out daily here at HCH, last month’s lottery enrollment window offered a very public reminder of what can happen when people come together on behalf of others.
Last month’s lottery enrollment also underscored the need for us to remain resolute in our efforts to reinvest in affordable housing for all who need it. It was a call to action—to keep access to affordable housing front and center on the public radar. In the days and weeks ahead, I hope each of us takes what we learned from the Section 8 lottery enrollment process last month and shares it with a handful of others. We do that, and in pretty short order we become a loud and forceful voice for what is right and fair.
With gratitude for your collective advocacy,
Kevin Lindamood, President & CEO