A Lot of Potential “Bang” behind the “Whimper”: What the Dallas County Voucher Riot Tells us about BRA’s Future
Traveling today. Trying to finish editing Captain American and Whiteness (cover will be up by Saturday), but can’t help but look out the window of the airplane – while at a cruising altitude of 40,000 feet – and think about all that is going on down there in America.
Fitting that today is Bastille Day in France, because a story was e-mailed to me that caused me to chuckle when thinking about ‘liberty, fraternity, equality’ and where we as a nation are headed. It was nearly a year ago that 30,000 (predominately Black) people rioted in East Point over the opportunity to sign up for a waiting list for Section 8 vouchers — many years in the future, mind you.
In Dallas County (Texas), conservative estimates of 15,000 people – more likely 25,000 – 30,000 – turned out for the opportunity to apply for housing assistance vouchers, a process that will require a two-year waiting period. Oh, a riot broke out in process:
At least five people required medical attention, including one pregnant woman who was trampled, after hundreds of people began running to apply for housing assistance vouchers early Thursday morning.Dallas County residents hoping to secure a Dallas County Health and Human Services housing voucher began lining up on Polk Street outside of the Jessie Owens Memorial Complex at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. The vouchers provide up to $1,000 each month to put toward rent for low income families.By 5 a.m. Thursday, that number had grown substantially and as many as 15,000 applications were expected, according to Dallas Fire-Rescue’s Jason Evans.When the gates were opened up at 5:30 a.m., the mass of people all began to run toward the building where the voucher pre-applications will be processed — all were trying to be among the first of thousands to line up. In the rush, some suffered minor cuts, bruises and heat exhaustion. The pregnant woman who was trampled is said to be OK, but shaken up.The rush prompted some officers in the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department to don riot shields in order to keep the crowd orderly and safe.Evans said that after the stampede, DFR sent six paramedics, two ATVs, one rescue unit and an EMS supervisor to the scene. They will remain at the location throughout the day to offer assistance to anyone who may suffer from heat-related issues.Zach Thompson, with the Dallas County Housing Authority, said there was no urgency for people to run for the vouchers. Thompson said the pre-application is a two-part process and that Thursday all people would be doing is giving their name, phone number and the number of people in their household. They are then called back for an interview where it will be determined then if they are placed on the waiting list for the voucher.If approved, it could take up to two years before people receive their vouchers for rental assistance.Dallas County currently has about 3,800 vouchers in use at a cost of $18 million to $20 million per year.Officials said that about 500 people leave the system annually due to finding more gainful employment, moving or lack of compliance.Most agencies that provide the vouchers have such long waiting lists that they have not accepted new applicants for years. This was the case in Dallas County, who before today had not accepted any new applications in five years.Pre-applications are being accepted at the Ellis Davis Field House at the Jessie Owens Memorial Complex on 9191 S. Polk Street between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Thursday only.
There are a growing number of bloggers and Web sites that are doing their best to prepare an exponentially growing number of inquisitive minds about the coming – unavoidable – deluge. I doubt I’m alone when I write that the number of unique visitors to this site rises each day and that the number of returning visitors grows as well.
So hang with us over the next couple of weeks. For my sanity, I’ll be slowly down posts: I’m working overtime to get Captain America and Whiteness ready for next Friday, and then will be working overtime to get SBPDL Year Two: 365 Days of Judging by Content of Character out by August 15.
During that time I’ll be thinking about what that 40,000 feet view should represent.