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Amount of housing decreases, as number of area Duluth reasidents looking for housing increases

By FATIMA JAWAID
DCN Correspondent

For six months, 21-year-old Elizabeth Kreigh didn’t have a place she could call her own. She lived out of a bag, lugging it from one friend’s house to another, never sure where she was going to be beyond than that night.

“For the longest time, all I felt was anger at the situation...at myself,? said Kreigh.

In Duluth, people like Kreigh total over 13,000 according to the Duluth Housing Coalition’s Web site, and the number is steadily increasing.

“These aren’t drug addicts or alcoholics,? said Jennifer Randa, a volunteer at the Union Gospel Mission. “These are just people who lost their jobs, who couldn’t afford to pay their rent.?

The Union Gospel Mission, located in Duluth on East 1st Street, is just one place that people can turn to if they are having trouble finding a place to live.

“We give them numbers,? she continued. “We show them all the resources that are out there, anyone who can help them find places to live.?

One such resource is the Housing Redevelopment Authority (HRA). It is an agency that helps residents of the Duluth community to find a decent, safe, affordable place to live, according to HRA representative, Sarah Prest.

Agencies like the HRA are trying to combat the housing problem in the area. The HRA provides over 1,200 units of public housing, and approximately 1,350 Section 8 housing, a program that pays the difference between what low-income tenants can afford, and what the rent actually costs.

The problem is that it’s not nearly enough. The waitlist can extend for over eight months, a time in which many like Kreigh have nowhere to go. In 2004, a city budget cut caused the number of Section 8 rent subsidy vouchers to be cut by almost 8 percent according to the Minnesota Public Radio article by Bob Kelleher.

This creates a problem with the sudden shift in the economy, Randa said. The number of people looking for housing is increasing and the amount of housing available is going down because of the budget cuts.

Kreigh was a resident of public housing for over two years. She loved her apartment, it was nice and clean, and she could decorate it all she wanted, including posters of all the old movies that she loved.

But one day, she received notice that she had only 30 days to find a new place to live.

“It was my fault, I admit it,? said Kreigh. “I was going through a rough time and wasn’t staying there as often, so when they came by to do an inspection, it didn’t meet the housing standards.?

The inspection that Kreigh refers to is an annual check-up to make sure that the public housing tenants are keeping their place clean and up to their housing standards. And once evicted from public housing for such reasons, a tenant cannot re-enter the program for five years.

“After that I didn’t know what to do,? said Kreigh. “Other places were way too expensive for me.?

Keeping affordable housing in Duluth is also a major problem for those suffering from a mental illness in Duluth, said Randa. Her own mentally ill sister was thrown out of multiple homes because she couldn’t remember to pay her rent.

“She was just too mixed up to know what was going on,? she said. “After she was kicked out, she just spent nights roaming around the street. And that’s not right. People need a safe place that they can go, that they can call home, even when they’re too mixed up to know better.?

“The city needs to do more,? said Randa. “ I know the budget is limited, but these people need a place to go. It's dangerous to keep things the way they‘ve been.?

As for Kreigh, it has been more than a year since her housing fiasco. She is now taking classes at Lake Superior College, and sharing a small, affordable studio apartment with her ex-boyfriend, where her posters can once again hang proudly on the wall.

“I have a great roommate and a wonderful apartment,? said Kreigh. “Overall, things are pretty good.?