Surviving the CMHA Housing Application Process

By Dessa Finnerty

Bridging the Gap is a NEOCH- sponsored program that helps people from the homeless community with their CMHA public housing applications. Although our program only helps people from partner agencies, we’ve learned a lot about what to do and what not to do to make sure you get a public housing unit at one of CMHA’s estate.

Here are 10 tips to help prevent your application from getting lost in the system:

  1. CMHA does everything by the letter. Make sure the mailing address on your application is a good one. This is probably the single most important piece of information you put on the application. If that letter can’t find you, then neither can CMHA- and they’re not going to spend time looking for you.
  2. Another important piece of information on the application is the “Daytime Telephone” number. Occasionally CMHA calls you to schedule an appointment. Usually, it’s near the end of the process when they’re ready to “lease-up”. Make sure the number you put her is a number where you can be reached. Again, CMHA is not going to run after you. They’ll call, and if that’s not a good number, you can kiss your place on the waiting list good-bye.
  3. Don’t lie on the application. If you have evictions or a criminal history, then be honest and put it down. They’re going to find out anyway and if you lied on the application, it just gives them more reason to turn you down.
  4. If you have to change something on your application (like your mailing address, phone number, or the number of people in the household), make you check with CMHA a week or so later to verify that the information has been changed on their computer. I can’t tell you the number of times we’ve checked on a mailing address change, only to find that CMHA didn’t do the data entry and it wasn’t in the computer.
  5. Do your homework. When CMHA tells you to bring in a copy of your birth certificate, social security card, driver license and income verification – then bring it. Don’t show up to the interview unprepared. The more times you have to go down to the office to complete your application, the longer it takes to process it.
  6. Don’t assume that no news is good news. If you don’t hear them for  a while, then call or stop by to check on your application and ranking (Once a month is good; daily will only make everyone in the office cranky.)
  7. Be polite . I don’t care how many times you’ve called or how many stories you get from the staff be nice. If something goes wrong, you want the staff on your side. It’s a frustrating process and calling the analyst names over the phone isn’t going to get her to move faster on your application- in fact, it’s more likely she’ll get mad at you and throw your application on the bottom of the pile.
  8. If you do get withdrawn, remember that you have the right to appeal the decision. But you only have that right for 14 days. Make sure your request is in writing and has your client number and social security number on it. You should also keep a copy of the request. That way when you have to check on the status of the request, you have all the information you need.
  9. Always get names and numbers when you call or stop by. Try to follow-up with the same person, so that they get to know you – this is really important when they’re working on your eligibility
  10. Don’t give up. The people that don’t give up get housed- eventually.

It’s a long wait sometimes, and you don’t want that wait to be longer than it should be. So take care of yourself and your application, and you’ll be housed in one of CMHA’s bee-yoo-tiful estates before Bush runs for re-election.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle March -April 2002 Cleveland, Ohio