Hundreds of people began lining up Monday just for a chance to get on the waiting list for public housing assistance in East Point. (11Alive)
Thousands of Atlantans, desperate for help, have flooded a shopping plaza in East Point. They're all hoping to get on a waiting list for public housing assistance. (11Alive)
EAST POINT, GA -- A huge crowd of people flooded the public housing office in East Point Wednesday, hoping to get on the waiting list for housing assistance.
The crowd began with just a few hundred people gathering around noon Monday at the Tri-Cities Plaza Shopping Center.
By Wednesday morning, the East Point Public Housing Authority estimated it had swelled to tens of thousands, all clamoring for applications.
Many in the crowd could be seen running toward police vehicles. Thousands were gathered around the front of the plaza. Many more were just waiting in long lines.
"We have a lot of homeless families, a lot of families who are unemployed and it creates a desperate situation, which is what our agency was created to assist with," said Kim Lemish, the executive director of East Point Housing Authority.
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Right now East Point's nearly 200 public housing units are full. In addition, the housing authority has qualified more than 400 others to use Section 8 vouchers for subsidized rent in the private housing sector.
For the masses in line Wednesday, the chances of getting immediate housing assistance in East Point are slim. All they wanted was to get on the waiting list, which last opened in 2002.
"At that time we took in 2,400 applications. Now based on that number and the way the economy is today, we prepared for 10,000 people," Lemish said. "Unfortunately three times that number showed up." She said many of them didn't even need housing help but came along to support loved ones in line.
"We gave out over 13,000 applications in under three hours," she said. "The number was just astronomical, and it ties exactly to the way the economy is today."
"Hopefully in the very near future, we'll be able to help these families that received applications," Lemish said. "The next step for the applicants is they're going to have to return their applications to us. That process is going to be much smoother."
She's encouraging people to mail applications in instead of dropping them off in person Thursday at the East Point Housing Authority offices at 3056 Norman Berry Drive.
Lemish says plans are in place to keep the process as smooth as possible, but there are no guarantees.
More than 60 people were treated, mostly for heat related illness, while waiting for applications. There were no serious injuries or arrests for criminal behavior.