For the Housing Choice Voucher Program, the homeless make up the most needy population and are given preference over residents who have housing, even if it is unstable, Michaelson said. New applicants without a home move in front of others such as Lewis on the wait list. Nearly 50 percent of applicants for a housing voucher identify themselves as homeless, according to DCHA data.
For public housing, the elderly, disabled and working families receive priority on the list. This preference model is why the housing authority can’t provide applicants with numbers, as their spots are constantly shifting on the list, based upon need, Michaelson said.
Mary Hordge has been in need of housing for more than a decade. Hordge, 71, is homeless and disabled. In 2000, she signed up for all three housing programs after retiring from her job as a managing assistant for housing and environmental regulations with the city seven years earlier. At the time, Hordge needed more space than her one-bedroom apartment could provide for her and the two grandchildren she was raising.