LONG BEACH, Calif. — After decades in the classroom, it’s about time for one school employee to graduate to the next stage in life — made possible through the guarantee of housing.
She’s moved a lot in her life, and this year instructional aide, Bridgette Spikes, is moving into a new classroom. It won’t change what she loves most about her job.
“It is such a joy. You think sometimes you teaching them something and you learning,” Spikes said.
Right after work, Spikes gets going to pick up her grandkids. She takes care of them full-time, meaning there’s rarely a moment to just sit and relax.
“I done made leaps and bounds, I mean from the start up until now and I ain’t stop,” Spikes said.
Her whole life has been a hustle. Spikes was a single mother of a three-year-old when she first applied for a housing voucher. By the time she got off the wait list, her eldest was becoming a teenager and had siblings.
She’s spent close to two decades in what’s sometimes called “Section 8 housing,” paying a portion of rent calculated off her current income. It’s allowed her to raise her family and raise herself up.
“It ain’t gonna work for everybody, but it will work for somebody. And I’m one of them that it worked for cause somebody threw me back in the water, gave me another chance to swim,” Spikes said.
Many are dreaming of an opportunity like hers. In Long Beach, there are over 14,000 people on the wait list for a tenant-based housing voucher. Hundreds more have such vouchers, but can’t find a landlord to take them.
Housing Operations Officer Anna Topolewski at the Housing Authority of the City of Long Beach is pleading with local property owners, even offering monetary bonuses for those who accept voucher holders.
“I mean I think that there’s a stigma about housing choice voucher as people used to call it the Section 8 program, and I think that we want to get past that,” Topolewski said.
There’s a $2,500 leasing bonus for new landlords who lease to a new voucher participant, and $1,500 for existing landlords who lease to a new voucher participant.
Spikes made the most of the trust people put in her and started a savings account with the city’s guidance. Today, it’s looking like a pretty good down payment on a home — her ultimate goal, thereby leaving the voucher program behind.
“Having the means to be able to meet the goals, if you set goals and they’re unattainable, it’s a waste of time,” Spikes said.
Interested property owners can call 562.570.5372 or email HAemail@example.com.