October, 23 2017

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Struggling mothers finding a way out

Almost four years ago, Cassandra Tucker needed HELP.

She and her six children, then ages 2 through 13, lived in a shelter, she was struggling financially and there was trouble between Tucker and her now ex-husband.

�It was really a bad situation,� Tucker said. �I had kids and I was going to be here, so I had to do something.�

Tucker found herself at the Winnebago County Housing Authority applying for a Section 8 rental assistance voucher, looking for a way to start a better life.

Starting over takes time, though, and while 400 people like Tucker get their footing again, about 700 more families and elderly county residents are waiting for their chance.

But a weak economy and no new federal funding for additional housing vouchers has put everyone involved between a rock and a hard place.

It�s more difficult for those receiving Section 8 to shake their need for the assistance and those waiting for assistance have no choice but to keep waiting.

�I sense there�s less turnover just because the overall economic activity has diminished,� Housing Authority Executive Director Brad Masterson said.

�There haven�t been new vouchers available for the past few years and I think that�s slowing the waiting list down.�

Masterson said the average length of time a client uses a Section 8 voucher varies because �there are elderly who are on it for 10-15 years and then you have families that move on after one year.�

The vouchers provide 90 percent of fair-market rent for extremely low-income families based on the number of people in the household.

Tucker�s been on Section 8 for four years, but it�s not like she hasn�t been trying to get off it. She�s studying counseling and social work at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and working at a group home for the developmentally disabled in Fond du Lac.

�The assistance HELPs you, especially single mothers,� she said. �We�re often not educated so it would be hard to get a job making $30,000 or $40,000 a year.�

Stephanie Fowler started receiving a voucher in October 2003 and found an apartment for her and her 6-year-old son, who she had when she was 14.

�I knew I wouldn�t be able to afford a full month�s rent with my son and working only as a waitress,� she said. �Something would�ve been neglected. My son maybe wouldn�t have a bed or nice shoes on his feet or things that are important to children.�

In that time, she�s also enrolled in Marian College in Fond du Lac where, like Tucker, she�s going to study counseling.

�I mainly want to work with TROUBLED TEENagers and their families,� she said. �I was obviously a TROUBLED TEEN and I had a social worker when I was younger, but I didn�t receive any HELP.�

Amy Hix, of Oshkosh, has received Section 8 for six years now and while Fowler and Tucker are in the early stages of finding solid ground, she�s almost there.

She recently finished college and has been certified as a teacher and she�s been able to do it while caring for her three children, ages 6, 7 and 18.

�That�s why I went back to SCHOOL to become a teacher: It�s a good job with benefits,� Hix said. �My goal is to get freed up from the system.�

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