Tough Questions: Mom Recounts Section 8 Woes 9-14-2010 - WNEM TV 5

Tough Questions: Mom Recounts Section 8 Woes 9-14-2010

A Gratiot County woman whose family has fallen on hard times said she's getting the runaround regarding help that she's entitled to. Now she's asked TV5 to Ask the Tough Questions.
Shelley Birnbaum said she's been told she has to be homeless to qualify for state assisted Section 8 rent support.
"This is February, we're in the middle of winter. Am I going to sit out there and freeze my butt off with the kids, you know?" said Birnbaum of her ordeal this past winter.
Birnbaum is about at the end of her rope. Her husband of 15 years, Jim, passed away last February. She's not working full time and couldn't afford to keep making house payments on her home of 10 years. So she let it go to the bank.
Birnbaum is supporting herself and her three children on $2,000 per month in disability benefits she received following Jim's death.
But she's been told by an agency that helps people in her situation that she must be homeless before she can get on a Section 8 rent support program for a state-approved rental home.
She said the bank won't rent her back her house under the Cash for Keys program.
"Well, you figure, you know, the banks are getting all this bailout money from the government, and if something happens in this type of situation, you'd think the banks would be willing to work with you, but they don't want to," said Birmbaum.
A Salvation Army spokeswoman told TV5 Birnbaum could get on a Section 8 list if she had proof that she would be homeless up to a month before she is evicted.
Birnbaum said that's nice to know, but it's no guarantee. "How long is that list going to take?" she asked.
Birnbaum would like to stay in the Merrill area so her children can continue to go to schools there.
She's actively seeking employment, but times are tough, and hiring in the Great Lakes Bay Region is slow-going. "I'm trying to find work," she said. "I have Kelly Services calling when there's work, [and] I go to work."
Even though Birnbaum is worried about the future, she's confident everything will work out in the long run. "I have faith," she said.
TV5 contacted the state agency that administers the Homeless Assistance Recovery Program on Birnbaum's behalf. So far, the agency has not responded.
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