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Homeless woman bumped to the bottom of Section 8 housing list after 3-year wait

The barriers for the Section 8 housing waitlist are intentionally low, but access is still proving difficult for some of the people with the greatest need.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Tara Pietromonaco is one of dozens of homeless campers who have claimed a section of Northeast 33rd Drive as their own. Like many of them, she's been pushing to find a way out of the chaos of the streets, but the path to housing isn't easy.

"I've just been having a hard time getting back up on my feet again," she said.

The lifestyle she leads at Northeast 33rd — relying on friends to help push her broken down red car around, trying to make sure it stays out of the way —  wasn't her choice, she said. It’s something she fell into after leaving prison, where she spent time for identity theft.

"I got out to nothing," she said. "They took my business, they took my houses, they took my cars, my husband left, my kids didn't want to talk to me, so I kind of got thrown out here."

She stands by her trailer and three cars, which are covered in trash, clothes and old tools. "I’m not stable," she said. "Granted that's my home because that’s where my things lie but its not a stable home."

Like many of her neighbors, she faces another burden. “I was addicted to meth, but I wasn't addicted to it,” she said. “It was just something to do because I was bored. I got out of prison, I was like I don't got anything to lose.”

Pietromonaco lives off Supplemental Social Security Income, which is about $800 a month. She has $2,000 saved for a home and has been trying to get a Section 8 housing voucher.

Credit: KGW
Tara Pietromonaco speaks to KGW near her RV along Northeast 33rd Drive.

“It's the money, it's the rent raises, and the felonies on my record make me look like I’m a bad person,” she said. She tells KGW she’s been on the waitlist for a Section 8 housing voucher for three years and finally made it to the top, only to find out she needs a proof of residency.

“Obviously, I’m needing help and the Section 8 was supposed to help me get back on my feet again and what they did was they degraded me by telling me I can't have it because I’m not paying rent anywhere.”

Those at Home Forward, the housing authority that manages local Section 8 vouchers, weren't able to talk with KGW on camera but said the barriers for getting on the voucher waitlist are low. All Pietromonaco would need is someone to write a letter verifying she lives in Portland so she can get her spot back on the list. However, that’s not such an easy task for people with barriers like hers.

“You know if we had some resources coming down the street and talking to us…right now, everybody's just giving up everybody's just like there ain't nobody out there to help us.”

RELATED: City removes certain homeless camps along NE 33rd & Marine Drive

RELATED: Cycle of Portland homeless camp cleanups leaves campers demoralized, neighbors frustrated

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