David's Story

David used to be an avid rock climber, until he slipped. He was lucky and survived the fall, but it caused damage to his spine and he couldn't walk anymore.

Before the injury, David was a construction worker, but after the accident, he couldn't do that anymore. So he decided to go to a community college and learn how to be a sound technician. He also applied for Medicaid to cover his medical expenses and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), so he'd have some money to live on.

He qualified for both, but SSI wasn't going to be enough to cover all of his expenses, especially rent. He was staying with some friends, but he knew that he couldn't stay with them forever. Not knowing what to do, David called up his local Independent Living Center and asked them if there were any programs that might help him with his rent. They told him to call the local HUD Public Housing Field Office. David called the HUD office and spoke with Barry. He and Barry set up an appointment for later that week.

Section 8

"David," Barry said, after reviewing David's info, "It looks like you qualify for Section 8 benefits. When you get Section 8 benefits, the federal government pays a portion of your rent."

David had heard of Section 8 but didn't realize he could get it. "That sounds great!" he exclaimed. "Where do I sign up?"

"Unfortunately," Barry said, "you'll have to sign up in several different places. Section 8 is funded by the federal government, but it's managed by many different local programs called public housing authorities."

Barry gave David a list of the housing authorities in the area, along with their contact information, and told him, "Each public housing authority has its own application form and there's no real way of knowing which one might give you a Section 8 voucher, which ones may turn you down, and which ones just put you on waiting lists. The best thing for you to do is to apply to all of the housing authorities in the area where you want to live and then see which one replies to you first."

David looked at the list and circled the ones that were near his community college. He set himself a goal of submitting an application to one public housing authority each week until he'd applied to them all. While he waited to hear back, he started school. His friends let him stay with them until his Section 8 was approved.

A couple of months later, David got a call from one of the public housing authorities. His caseworker at the housing authority, Ahmed, told him that because he had a disability, he had priority on the waiting list, and that's why they'd gotten back to him so quickly. David and Ahmed scheduled a screening interview so they could go over his eligibility together.

During the interview, Ahmed asked David questions to make sure that he met the eligibility requirements for the program, and then said that David would have no problem qualifying. At the end of the screening interview, Ahmed scheduled David for the following week for a meeting called the "Section 8 briefing." At the briefing, David learned how the Section 8 program worked and how to find an apartment that his Section 8 voucher would help pay for.

David was really happy. His friends helped him look for an apartment that weekend. He found one that was $800 per month and only a block away from his school. Once he found it, he told the public housing authority about it and they inspected it to make sure it was okay.

Once it was approved, they calculated how much of the $800 David would have to pay and how much the Section 8 voucher would pay. Since David's only income was $943 per month from SSI, he would only have to pay about $280 each month in rent! Section 8 would pay the rest.

David signed his lease agreement and moved into his own place.

Getting Work

After going to school for a while, David decided to get a part-time job. He was lucky to find a job as a cashier at the local music store. The job would pay him $500 a month, enough to pay his rent, with a little extra for his other expenses.

The day after he got the job offer, he called up Ahmed at the public housing authority.

"Ahmed," he said on the phone, "I got a job offer! If I take it, will it affect anything?"

"It might," said Ahmed. "Why don't you come in so we can talk? I've got an open appointment tomorrow morning if you're free."

The next day, they looked at David's new situation.

"Well, here's your good news David," Ahmed said. "With work, your income will go up. That means you'll have more money to spend on the things you want."


"What about my rent? Will having more income affect it" David asked.

Ahmed explained, "People who get help from Section 8, like you, pay about 30% of their income as rent. So if your income goes up, your rent will eventually go up too. Let's use DB101's SSI Quick Estimator to get an idea of what might happen."

Ahmed brought up the SSI Quick Estimator on screen, put in David's $943 per month in SSI benefits, and then added $500 per month in earnings from the job. The Quick Estimator said that after getting the job, David's total income would be about $1,236 per month.

Ahmed continued, "Your income will be higher, so your rent will eventually go up by about $88 per month. But that increase is a lot less than your increase in income, so you'll have more money."

David listened carefully and asked another question, "When will my rent go up?"

Ahmed explained, "It won't be immediate. In fact, when income goes up due to work, like in your case, your rent won't change until we do your next annual reexamination. Since your last reexamination was four months ago, your rent wouldn't go up until eight months from now."

"That's not so bad!" exclaimed David.

"Right," said Ahmed. "And when its time for your annual reexamination, we can sign you up for the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program. With that, the $88 your rent goes up each month will get put into a special account that you can use for something you need, like the down payment on an accessible van."

David liked the sound of that. He quickly said goodbye to Ahmed, and went to accept the job offer.

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