After six months of looking for an apartment in Seattle with a Section 8 voucher, a one-time homeless mom signs a lease for her family.
On Friday, Dana Disharoon picked up the keys to her new apartment. It had been quite a journey to get them.
For six months, Disharoon, a bartender and mother of three, had scoured apartment listings and showed up at open houses in an attempt to use her federal Section 8 housing voucher. She had felt like the voucher, which pays an ongoing rent subsidy, was a golden ticket — until she realized how hard it was to find apartments within the stipulated rent limits, how much competition she faced in Seattle’s Darwinian rental market and how few landlords are disposed to accept Section 8, despite a law prohibiting discrimination.
By late last month, her time was running out. Her voucher was about to expire and she had to leave the temporary housing she had obtained through a nonprofit. The tenants in all the facility’s 27 units will have to leave by January, in fact, because of shifts in local homeless policy.
Income inequalityAmid boom times, our region — like the rest of the nation — has grown more unequal in income and opportunities. Click here for other looks at how the income gap is reshaping life around Seattle.
The Seattle Times wrote about Disharoon’s search just as she had found a new apartment that might — or might not — work out.
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A tough inspection, required for federally subsidized units, was pending. The inspector found a bunch of repairs that needed to be made, and when they were, came back and put more fixes on the list, according to Penney Shelly, general manager of Lee & Associates Management, which oversees the unit. The company worked at a breakneck pace to get it all done by Oct. 9, the move-in date it had set for the unit.
Initially, in part because of bureaucratic delays, it looked like Disharoon would also have to cover first month’s rent without help from her voucher. Then readers got into the act.
An anonymous donor got a cashier’s check for first month’s rent and dropped it off with Shelly. Another reader later called the general manager offering to do the same. When he found out the rent was covered, he told Shelly to let him know if Disharoon runs into any further trouble.
Others sent checks — for amounts ranging from $25 (from an octogenarian dipping into her pension) to $1,000 — offered to take her on a furniture shopping spree or, if need be, give her a place in their own homes.
When she opened the $25 check, which came with a note saying that the donor wished she could give more, Disharoon recalled, she started bawling.
Friday afternoon, after signing the lease and getting the keys, she went to pick up her kids at school and show them the apartment. Afraid to jinx herself, she hadn’t yet boxed up anything to move. But speaking from the car on the way, she said, “I think I’m safe to start packing now.”