Up to 2,000 Douglas County residents lined up near 103rd and Fort Streets on Thursday morning to apply for low-income public housing assistance – the first in more than two years that Section 8 applications were available.
The line snaked through the huge Kaplan University and Ambassadors Worship Center parking lot, but Omaha police said it would have covered a half-mile if people had stood in a straight line.
Jean Bradley, Section 8 director of the Douglas County Housing Authority, assured those in line that everyone would receive an application. She advised applicants to fill out their forms elsewhere, then mail them to the housing authority to be considered for rental assistance.
“We anticipated this (crowd),'' she said.
The line for applications began forming Wednesday night. Ayan Mohamed, 27, said she arrived at 10 p.m. because she was told by friends that she needed to be in line early.
“It's been long,'' the Somalian refugee said of the line and the 10-hour wait.
Conditions became cool Wednesday night, Mohamed said, but she and her friends came prepared with blankets and food.
At 8 a.m. sharp, two lines of applicants began strolling orderly past a single card table, where two housing authority workers passed out the applications. Bradley said the process would be wrapped up well before noon.
The last time Section 8 applications were available in Douglas County was in March 2011. In the past, Bradley said, people have mistakenly thought there were a limited number of applications available and rowdiness would break out in the lines.
The applications put the residents on a waiting list for assistance. Officials then decide who receives financial aid with rent based on income and the number of people living in a household.
Section 8 currently assists more than 1,000 Douglas County families. Official say the waiting list for assistance has been running three to 12 months.
Bradley said the housing authority mailed applications to some Douglas County residents who might have had difficulty waiting in the long line.
“Our highest priority for assistance is the elderly and the handicapped,'' Bradley said.
The Douglas County Housing Authority serves residents living west of 72nd Street, officials said, while the Omaha Housing Authority primarily handles residents throughout Omaha.