A few years ago she was told that a voucher was about to become available, but that fell through, and she has spent much of the past 13 years hopping from apartment to apartment. Last spring, Ms. Sylve moved in with her daughter across the bay in San Francisco, because the neighborhood around her apartment had become too dangerous.
“They give you hope, and that’s the hardest part,” Ms. Sylve said. “But you keep hoping, year after year after.”
A survey of 44 large housing authorities across the country conducted by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a left-leaning Washington think tank, painted a grim picture of the voucher program. A total of 737,000 people were on waiting lists, and 32 of the authorities are refusing to take new applications, with a few exceptions for particularly vulnerable populations.
The situation on the West Coast was especially dire, with eight times as many people lingering on waiting lists as receiving aid in San Diego, where the list has topped 108,000. Long waiting lists are also a staple in Washington, Philadelphia, Houston, Honolulu, Little Rock, Ark., and New York, which closed its list years ago.
Will Fischer, director for housing policy for the center, said bolstering the voucher program was the most important single move the federal government could make to address the homelessness crisis.
“Look, the public housing money is urgently needed — but it would be for existing units, for families who already have a place to live,” he said. “And most of the other funding in the proposal actually serves people a little bit higher up the income scale.”
Representative Ritchie Torres, a Bronx Democrat whose district is among the poorest in the country, said housing always seemed to be listed as the third, fourth or fifth priority of many liberal lawmakers.