, Port Arthur, Texas

April 16, 2014

More than 1,500 line up for housing assistance

Mary Meaux
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — More than 1,500 people lined up — and around — the Robert A. “Bob” Bowers Civic Center for a chance to fill out an application, and be placed on a waiting list, for public housing on Wednesday.

“We are opening the waiting list for two days ,” Paula Watts, director of operations with the Port Arthur Housing Authority, said of the Housing Choice Voucher Program which provides rental subsidy for low income families.

Some people, such as Erica Rhine, camped out overnight.

“I got here about 8:30 or 9 p.m. last (Tuesday) night so I could be one of the first in line,” Rhine, a mother of three, said. “It’s worth the wait to help with rent, especially with kids in the family.”

Randle Fuller, a Port Arthur barber who has a shop on Bluebonnet, said he arrived about 9 p.m. Tuesday and slept on the ground. Fuller was seated next to his niece whom he is raising.

Delvon Callahan, Angellica Gay and Yezmien Crain also camped out the night before. Callahan brought along some sheets and made a make-shift tent to rest in.

The women described how they, and others, came together as a community sharing food and conversation throughout the night. Those waiting overnight snacked on cold gumbo, pizza, red beans and rice and fried chicken.

Cele Quesada, executive director of the Port Arthur Housing Authority, said they will prioritize the applications with homeless and working families making at or above the minimum wags who fall into the poverty level.

Shanel Dixon, director of the Section 8 Housing Voucher Program, said the last time they did a similar event was in March 2011 — four years ago. The previous event was held at the Carl Parker Center on Lamar State College-Port Arthur campus.

“The first time we had between 2,500 to 2,600 people so we decided to pick a different venue this time,” Dixon said.

Quesada said there is a limited number of applications and assistance is limited to 2,800 families on an ongoing basis.

By 10 a.m. Wednesday upwards of 700 people had entered the civic center for an application with an estimated 750 or so still in line outside the facility.

The PAHA will accept applications again from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday at the civic center.


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