The more I try to raise awareness of the plight of the homeless and those who struggle to afford housing, the more I receive comments like this one:
“The best thing Dane county or even better Madison can do is stop having section 8 housing. Property values will rise, property taxes and crime will decrease and schools will be better. We don’t need to keep bringing people into our city who suck our resources and dollars while not being a contributor.”
Or this one:
“You have to let these people know what impact they and their families have on us tax paying, law abiding people, and that it would be a great idea if they left Madison and went back to where they came from. It is getting serious here… and we feel that people such as yourself have forgotten that fact.”
These two individuals think they know what type of person is on the DCHA’s Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program and it got me thinking, exactly who is on the program? Being a big fan of statistics I decided to look into it, and even I was surprised. Here is what I found:
94% of program participants make less than 50% of County Medium Income or $28,350 per year for an individual or $36,450 for a family of three.
92% have an income of at least $5,000 per year. 64% make at least $10,000 and 41% make at least $15,000 per year. Only 3% have no income at all.
49% of program participants work. 52% receive either Social Security or pension payments.
53% of program participants are either elderly or disabled. 40% have minor children in the home and only 6% are not elderly, disabled or caring for children.
The average household size is 2.6 family members.
40% of program participants have been on the program for 5 years or less. 69% have been on the program for 10 years or less. Remember that 53% are elderly or disabled and have little hope to get a job and get off the program.
Last but not least, of the 461 families on our Section 8 waiting list 88% currently reside in Wisconsin and 87% in the 608 area code.
So when you say “Get a job” the vast majority of those able to do so already have a job. When you say “Go back to where you came from” the vast majority are where they came from. And when you say “Get off the program” the majority of participants, because of their age or disability, have little hope to get off the program.
So this is my challenge to you; now that you know exactly who the Section 8 program participants in Dane County are, how should we address their housing issues? And before you say end the Section 8 program remember that between the DCHA and the CDA in Madison, this program keeps 2,600 families off the streets and directs over 14 million federal dollars to Dane County landlords every year. Without this program our local economy would crash, emergency services would be overrun and people would be dying in the streets. Crime will go up because people will be desperate, property values will decrease because of the sudden glut of vacant rental units and schools will be worse because students without a home perform poorly. Is that the Dane County you envision? Because it is not my Dane County.