Hundreds Come to Park Forest Hoping to Win Housing Vouchers

The line of people hoping for housing vouchers Tuesday evening. People waited all night long. (Photo: ENEWSPF)

Park Forest, IL–(ENEWSPF)– Hundreds lined up on the sidewalk outside the Park Forest Police Station, hoping to receive one of 50 housing vouchers from the Park Forest Housing Authority. Police estimated there were 150 people Tuesday evening. By Wednesday, that number came close to 400, village officials said.

For the first time in 10 years, the Park Forest Housing Authority is updating a waitlist for the Housing Choice Voucher Program. The first 250 pre-qualified applicants receive a lottery for a spot on the program’s waitlist of 50 to claim one of the 50 currently held vouchers.

The Park Forest Housing Authority‘s 50 vouchers, first awarded in 1993 by HUD, are available to income-eligible families needing better housing opportunities.

“Only 250 applications will be available to form the lottery pool, of which 50 will be randomly selected for the waitlist,” said Village Manager Tom Mick.

The lottery will happen next month.

Lottery Winners Must Still Wait for Housing Vouchers

Village officials said that no families from today’s application process would receive subsidized housing until a voucher opportunity becomes available.

“There are a lot of people who are looking for it,” Mayor John Ostenburg said. The line of potential applicants “is sort of an indication of where things are today with the economy.”

Corporal Michael LoSchiavo said Tuesday evening that everyone in line seemed patient, even though some had been waiting since early Tuesday morning, “No problems so far. Everyone’s being real nice. I imagine the line will be up to Juniper by the morning.”

Alicia Kemp said she’s a full-time criminal justice student and hopes to be a lawyer someday. “I have to be a full-time student or the government will not give me child care.” She says she and her children, ages 4 and 1, all currently stay in one room. “I’m just up here looking for a safe haven. Where God closes a door, he opens up one. I’m hoping this is my open door.”

Friends Sherell, Lynn and Katherine wait in line for the housing voucher lottery Tuesday evening. (Photo: ENEWSPF)

Mom Plans to Attend School

Andria, a single mother of a 6-year-old, a 4-year-old, and a 3-year-old, said she had been planning on attending school, “I do work, and I was planning on being in school this semester, but I had to stop because the place where I’m staying at was something that I can’t afford.” She said someone broke into her home thrice in the last few months. “The last time I was actually inside my house. It’s just at the point where my landlord doesn’t care because he’s only getting a little bit of money.”

“Something has to open up,” Andrea said. “There’s gonna be a door that has to open up. I want to go back to school, but right now I can’t. I have to feed my kids, so I gotta work.”

James Green said he was waiting in line for his 79-year-old mother, who recently suffered a stroke and is facing foreclosure at her home, “It’s rough for her.”

“I just hope they’ll be able to serve all of us who’s in line right now,” said Deborah Pitts, who currently stays with a friend in Park Forest.

Commander Chris Mannino said this was not a police matter, but the police were helping to ensure things went smoothly, “This is the first time I think we’ve done this in 10 years. So far, everyone’s been real polite, no major problems. We’re just here to make sure everyone’s safe.”

Amidst a Bad Economy

“The economy’s really bad,” said Monique Brown, hoping to receive a voucher. “Everyone really needs a place to stay right now. There’s a lot of people that are suffering from the economy. Either they’re unemployed, or they have low income. A lot of people have children.”

“We’re just hopeful that you get picked,” she said. Ms. Brown said she has plans to return to school and study psychology.

“I’m in a domestic violence shelter,” said Katherine, who had her 4-month-old daughter with her. She said times are hard, “Guys are getting upset because there ain’t no money out there. Right now, I’m homeless. So, hopefully, I get picked. Hopefully, this will give us a step-up – opportunity.”