ILC loses Section 8 program |

ILC loses Section 8 program

Rent-assistance vouchers go through Grand Junction

Collin Smith

As of Nov. 5, the Grand Junction Housing Authority took control of all Section 8 housing vouchers in Moffat and Rio Blanco counties.

Colorado Division of Housing officials said they took the program away from the Independent Life Center in Craig because it could not meet federal administration requirements.

Section 8 vouchers pay the majority of a person’s rent on a scale dependent upon income and number of children. Eligibility is based on the same factors.

Ryan McMaken, Division of Housing community relations director, said local voucher holders will not be affected. The number of vouchers, 81, is not expected to change either.

However, there will be a review period by the Grand Junction Housing Authority to make sure all vouchers are held by legally eligible residents.

“If (Grand Junction Housing Authority) determines that some vouchers are being issued in violation of federal regulations,” McMaken said, “those vouchers may need to be granted to new households that are currently on the waiting list.”

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The state’s decision to change administrators was not based on the Life Center’s problems funding the Section 8 program, which could cause other potential issues.

“They weren’t able to organize themselves in such a way that their staff was able to do all the necessary tasks, conduct inspections, to comply with federal regulations,” McMaken said.

The Life Center publicly asked local government to help fund the program earlier this year. At the time, Executive Director Evelyn Tileston said the program’s revenue was not enough to pay a full-time staff person to do everything the program required.

Both the Craig City Council and the Moffat County Commission approved temporary subsidies of $500 a month each, which would have lasted until December.

Although the additional funding helped, Tileston said it still was not enough to fulfill the Division of Housing’s request that the Life Center hire an extra staff member.

She added she wasn’t upset her organization lost the program.

“I’m not questioning their decision at all,” Tileston said. “The state is probably right, we probably couldn’t ever have done it right. : We truly never could afford to hire another person.

“Of course, I am physically unable to review files,” added Tileston, who is legally blind. “Had I been able to do that, it may have made a difference.”

Tileston said she is not concerned about the Life Center’s future, but she is worried for the people who depend on Section 8 vouchers and landlords who work with them. She will make the Life Center available to those who need help.

“I’m disappointed that we couldn’t do it because we know this community and people know us, and we deal with people in a compassionate way, which may have been one of the reasons why we couldn’t ever satisfy the Division of Housing,” Tileston said. “We stand ready to help people with disabilities who have housing-related problems. I hope that anyone who feels they have a housing advocacy issue will contact us.”

Lori Rosendahl, Grand Junction Housing Authority director of operations, said the goal is to make the transition seamless.

“We want as little interruption as possible for the tenants of Moffat County,” she said.

Rosendahl also grew up in Craig, as did her Section 8 supervisor.

“We all identify with Craig and really want to make this thing work,” Rosendahl said.

The Grand Junction Housing Authority staff has been in Craig several days this week, she added, and started the process of reviewing the program and conducting inspections of voucher holders. Rosendahl could not say if any local residents lost or would lose their vouchers as a result.

Her office is working with Moffat County Social Services to set up a temporary office in Craig, and will establish an 800 number for residents to call.

Rosendahl plans to introduce a memorandum of understanding between her agency and Social Services at the Moffat County Commission meeting Nov. 25. She said community members are welcome to attend and speak to her. The Grand Junction Housing Authority also plans to hold an open house for landlords from 6 to 8 p.m. Dec. 9 at the Moffat County Courthouse to answer questions and introduce staff. Rosendahl hopes to have a client outreach day later that week.