Cuts to federal housing stipends could affect people in Roanoke

One man with cerebral palsy says he feels his voucher could be in jeopardy

ROANOKE, Va. – Some people are expressing concerns about cuts to public housing in next year's proposed federal budget. It's a program serving thousands of people in the Roanoke community alone.

President Trump's fiscal year 2018 federal budget is calling for a $6.2 billion decrease to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Locally, this impacts cities like Roanoke. The city could see a decrease in funding to the tune of millions of dollars for community development block grants and public housing stipends. That's something scaring a lot of people, including Stephen Grammer, who has cerebral palsy. He says this budget has the potential to change his entire way of life.

For Grammer, even getting out of bed is a challenge. His Cerebral Palsy confines him to a wheelchair that he expertly maneuvers around his small apartment. It's a living space it took three years for him to find.

"I have limited living options now. Most of them are inappropriate due to bad neighborhoods with crime or drugs or living in a senior community," said Grammer.

The Executive Director at the Roanoke Redevelopment and Housing Authority, Glenda Goh, says Grammer is not outside the norm.

"Many of the people we assist are on fixed incomes, by virtue of being elderly or disabled, and so they, it's scary the prospect of losing some level of rental assistance," said Goh.

"If the proposed cuts go through, this would take away the little number of options that I do have to remain living in the community, forcing me to return to an institution," said Grammer.

Grammer's care giver, Christina Tymes, says those cuts could also affect her.

"If he loses funding to stay in the community and gets put into an institution, we as caregivers lose our jobs," said Tymes.

Goh says, with the largest budget cut she's ever seen looming over her department, those concerns are common. The housing authority currently serves about 1,900 households in the city. That amounts to about 3,000 people, and each of those households only brings in an average of $11 to $12 thousand a year. Goh says, she's already tightening the budget.

"We already are not accepting applications and haven't been for several months, and so it maybe that that extends into next year," said Goh.

But she admits, that may not be enough.

"There is a point where there's nothing, there's no way to avoid reducing assistance," said Goh.

Grammer says, he hopes that's a reality he never has to deal with.

Goh says the housing authority makes reducing assistance the very last option, saying she would fire staff before letting that happen. Meanwhile, Grammer has reached out to Senator Tim Kaine with his concerns.