Looking for new home, new start

Kendra Buist, a staff member with the Charleston Housing Authority, helps Louise Richardson with her Section 8 housing application Wednesday.

Solida Washington was tired of smelling urine in her apartment building hallway. Tasha Brown wanted to get her kids out of failing schools. Alda Kecisha wanted a way out of her violent neighborhood.

People who lined up Wednesday to submit an application for federal housing assistance had different stories. Some just wanted to move out of a parent's home. Others wanted a bigger, affordable place. Many of them said they wanted safer homes where shootings and drugs are not a worry.

Washington said she is hoping for assistance for a two-bedroom apartment to share with her 1-year-old daughter, Somarie.

She lives on Nunan Street near the Septima Clark Expressway in Charleston and pays $418 per month in rent.

She earns $300 a week as a nurse's aide. Her husband, Derrick Washington, is a U.S. Census worker. They need extensions on the due date for their power company bills, and they rely on family for help.

"It's kind of a struggle. I would mostly like to move somewhere for a nice apartment," she said.

Brown said she wanted to escape the schools and crime of her Midland Park neighborhood in North Charleston. Her children are 9, 10 and 12 years old. "I don't like the neighborhood at all," she said.

Eastside Charleston resident Kecisha said she wants to raise her teenagers, ages 16 and 13, away from drugs and street violence. She lives on Harris Street. "All night people are shooting. Sometimes little kids can't even go out on the basketball court," Kecisha said.

Liberty Hill resident Antoine Milligan said he faced the same sort of problems in North Charleston. "They are crazy around there. Shooting. Drugs in the area. I am tired of seeing young kids get killed," he said.

Cecile Lee of Ladson said she is raising three kids ages 17, 11 and 2. "I need a safe neighborhood. It's just all about drugs. It's really bad. I keep my kids in the backyard," she said.

Latosha Bolles said she lives near the Crosstown in Charleston with her boys, ages 2 and 6 months. "I just hear a lot of shooting at nighttime. They're just shooting for nothing," she said.

Don Cameron, executive director of the Housing Authority for the city of Charleston, said 333 applications were received Wednesday for 69 spaces in the Section 8 housing program. In addition, there is a waiting list of 600 families. The assistance is awarded based on need and income, he said.

Cameron said the city has an additional $36,000 per month in federal funds available for the Section 8 program. The average subsidy is $522 per month for rent and utilities. Overall, the city has 1,210 families currently enrolled in the $6 million program.

"This gives them the opportunity to get out of a neighborhood. People want to do the best that they can for their children's future," Cameron said.

The housing authority usually has long lines for new Section 8 housing assistance, he said. The information on the applications will be verified and the applicants should hear back from the housing authority in about three weeks, he said.