WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (WAVY) – Edward Howard’s past few months encapsulate the phrase “falling on tough times.”
His mother passed away in the fall. Then in October, he was diagnosed with Stage IV terminal lung cancer. The mechanic and handyman can no longer work as the chemotherapy makes him too tired.
“I’m just too tired,” Howard said. “I’ve got a job right now where I’m supposed to go pick up a quarter-acre (of) scrap metal,” he said. “I had to tell him no, and that was money in my pocket paying my bills.”
Howard has lived at various campgrounds in his RV for six years. Now that he’s unable to work, he doesn’t know where to turn. At the end of the month, his campsite rental rate will drastically increase in the face of seasonal demand. He said his $800 a month in disability won’t cover it.
He turned to various housing assistance programs and applied for a Section 8 voucher. He said his case manager told him it might be a year or more that he sits on the waitlist – time he doesn’t know if he has.
Now, his only option is to park his RV at a commuter lot and run off a generator, which is illegal.
He said his conundrum is emblematic of the challenges with the housing assistance crisis in Virginia, and said there should be vouchers available to people like him immediately on an emergency basis.
“There’s people out there that are homeless,” he said. “It’s not their fault because they have medical issues and they became disabled.”
Maureen Hollowell, the director of advocacy and services at the Endependence Center in Norfolk, said localities are overwhelmed with requests for Section 8 vouchers.
She said people facing homelessness shouldn’t put all their eggs in the Section 8 basket.
“While everybody thinks that’s the golden egg, there are other very small, but sometimes available (housing resources) if you’re lucky,” Hollowell said.
She recommends people facing homelessness call the regional homeless hotline (757-587-4202) to share their circumstances, learn what is available to them, and to make a plan. In a case like Howard’s, it might offer guidance on places to park an RV.
As Howard looks for a place to park, rest and fight cancer, he said he’s holding on to hope.
“Every day I wake up breathing is a good day for me,” Howard said. “I’m a very positive person. I’m just getting weaker and weaker every day. Somewhere to park, have running water and electricity, and I’ll be golden.”
Want to help?
A GoFundMe has been established by family members of Edward Howard to help him with expenses. The link for it can be found here.