Voucher Lines Under Control After Stampede

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    NEWSLETTERS

    People waiting for hours started running causing a stampede as they tried to be first to apply for rental assistance vouchers that are only offered every five years. (Published Thursday, Jul 14, 2011)

    At least five people required medical attention, including a pregnant woman who was trampled, after hundreds of people began running to apply for housing assistance vouchers early Thursday morning.

    Dallas County residents hoping to secure a Dallas County Health and Human Services housing voucher began lining up on Polk Street outside of the Jessie Owens Memorial Complex at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.

    Lessons Learned from Stampede

    [DFW] Lessons Learned from Stampede
    Dallas County deputies say they'll have be better prepared for the next time they hand out rental assistance vouchers. (Published Thursday, Jul 14, 2011)

    The vouchers provide up to $1,000 each month to put toward rent for low-income families.

    By 5 a.m. Thursday, that number had grown substantially. Zachary Thompson, Health and Human Services director, said 5,000 people had put in a voucher pre-application Thursday.

    No Guarantees for Families Needing Vouchers

    [DFW] No Guarantees for Families Needing Vouchers
    Many of the people applying for rental assistance need it, but there's no guarantee they'll qualify. (Published Thursday, Jul 14, 2011)

    When the gates were opened up at 5:30 a.m., a mass of people began to run toward the building where the voucher pre-applications would be processed. In the rush, some sustained minor cuts, bruises and heat exhaustion.

    A pregnant woman who was trampled was said to be OK but shaken up.

    The rush prompted some officers in the Dallas County Sheriff's Department to don riot shields in order to keep the crowd orderly and safe.

    Dallas Fire-Rescue spokesman Jason Evans said DFR sent six paramedics, two ATVs, one rescue unit and an EMS supervisor to the scene after the stampede. They remained at the location throughout the day to offer assistance with heat-related issues.

    Thompson said there was no need for people to run for the vouchers.

    He said the pre-application is a two-part process. On Thursday, all people did was give their name, phone number and the number of people in their household. They would then called back for an interview, when it will be determined if they are placed on the waiting list for a voucher.

    If approved, it could take up to two years before people receive their vouchers for rental assistance.

    Dallas County currently has about 3,800 vouchers in use at a cost of $18 million to $20 million per year. Officials said that about 500 people leave the system annually because they find more gainful employment, move or no longer qualify.

    The Dallas County Housing Authority said families with vouchers receive an average assistance check of about $600 per month to supplement rent. Some receive up to $1,000, depending on the number of children and where the family lives.

    Ten-year-old Alexia Castille said she hopes her mother gets a rent voucher.

    "I wish I just had my own room," she said.

    The rent at their rundown Oak Cliff duplex is $450. Marlynia Castille collects about $700 per month in disability and is unable to work a steady job because she has Tourette syndrome.

    “I need to have a better in life for my daughter,” she said.

    Most agencies that provide the vouchers have such long waiting lists that they have not accepted new applicants for years. This was the case in Dallas County, which, before today, had not accepted new applications in five years.

    Pre-applications were accepted at the Ellis Davis Field House at the Jessie Owens Memorial Complex on 9191 S. Polk St. between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Thursday only.

    NBC 5's Amanda Fitzpatrick and Kimberly King contributed to this report.