Eau Claire public housing need 'skyrocketing' amid massive funding cuts

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EAU CLAIRE, Wisc. (WEAU) - More people are in need of public housing, but according to the Eau Claire City Housing Authority, assistance funding has been slashed.

Loretta Engen lives at Park Towers Apartments in Eau Claire, a federally subsidized complex for seniors and people with disabilities.

The 84-year-old, who moved in 22 years ago, said the building has given her everything she needs.

"I could never live in this nice a place with just my social security," Engen said.

But the Housing Authority said many are left in the cold. Its waiting list rose by about 400 families in the past six years.

"Our waiting list now is up to 678 families, so that's a major need," Executive Director Keith Johnathan said.

The Housing Authority has more than 300 units for public assistance and subsidizes nearly 800 more through the Section 8 voucher program.

Johnathan said federal funding went from $315,815 in 2011 to $0 in 2012, forcing the authority to go into reserves.

"People who have lost their jobs, they have no income ... and now we're pretty much their only hope for housing," he said. "To have the housing programs take the hit, where it's like 100 percent of our funding taken away, I don't agree with it. I think it's wrong."

Outside of the government putting funding back into housing assistance, Johnathan said the best solution is a stronger economy.

"Everybody needs to learn how to work together and put the work of the people ahead of the politics," he said.

"I would encourage the elderly to do these things because we don't want to be responsible to our kids. We're still stubborn and independent and do itself. This allows us to," Engen said.

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