||[Nov. 16th, 2010|11:53 pm]
Kelly J. Cooper
I don't mean to sound like I'm bragging. I'm bloggin' this because it was a pretty interesting experience.
Growing up, all I knew about "Section 8" was that Klinger on M.A.S.H. really wanted one to get out of the army and therefore acted "insane" (which at the time largely consisted of cross-dressing and occasional tale-telling).
Anyway, today I dragged my friend William, who is homeless and living on the street, to the Boston Housing Authority (BHA) to fill out the Section 8 paperwork for subsidized housing.
Technically, the list is closed EXCEPT to the street homeless.
We were assigned a number (42, amusingly), but then missed it being called (because it happened moments after we sat down, which we weren't expecting, and the acoustics at 56 Chauncy Street are horrendous). When #43 noticed my ticket she got agitated, noting that #44 was at the counter. She demanded to know whether they'd called #42 & both the clerk and the security guard assured her that they did. We waited until after #44 was done, then got our turn. (#43 went after us, then #45.)
We were handed a humongous packet of papers, stapled together, that included many forms to be filled out. We were provided with instructions by a woman who, while very nice, was extremely difficult to understand. (She had an accent like you wouldn't believe! Chinese, I think.)
I decided that, instead of wandering off to fill out the paperwork and coming back to drop it off or mail it in, we would plant our butts right there and fill it out so we could check with her afterward to make sure we did it right. So we sat on the bench and we played with the pens while we read all the pages and filled out all the forms. William mentioned several times that if I weren't there, he would've given up long ago and chucked the packet in the trash.
I gotta say, I've been filling out forms since I was about 5 years old. That's 35 YEARS' worth of experience in filling out forms, including buying a CAR and a HOUSE, and this was BY FAR the most confusing set of forms I have ever filled out.
Eventually, we finished the packet and I got another number. We waited until it was our turn again and brought the packet back to the clerk. She reviewed it, ripping the forms from the packet until she came to a particular pair of forms that we had failed to fill out. It took a bit for us to understand, but the upshot was this: there are two kinds of Section 8 housing, elderly (aged 60+) and family.
Depending on which you are applying for, you have to check off which properties you are willing to occupy. We couldn't figure it out, since William is neither elderly (he's only 56) nor a family. But it turns out that single people apply for family housing! I'm hoping we didn't screw up by indicating 1 bedroom (there's a 0 bedroom option for studio apartments, but we didn't figure that out until afterward). So he went through and checked off all the places he was willing to live, then signed and dated the forms. I'm listed as his co-head of household so I can inquire about the status of his application and receive snail mail from the BHA for him.
Eventually (while waiting for William finish using the bathroom), I realized that about half the packet was made up of pages of description of the properties! So you have two long pages of properties called by names (some names were street-related, others project-related, and still others seemingly random) and a dozen or so pages in which each named property is listed with what types of apartments it contains, the address, whether it has elder services, whether it's wheelchair accessible, and whether it has an elevator. So I kept that bit.
And then we were done! And it took less than 2 hours, which surprised the hell out of William. He attributed it to my presence, but I'm not so sure. If you ask questions and stay calm, most bureaucracies will trundle along to completion. But Williams swears it was all me, so I decided this was yet another occasion of me using my CAUCASIAN POWERS FOR GOOD.
That's the story.