By Shawn Chitnis

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – A woman searching for a new apartment with a housing voucher says five months later she still cannot find a complex that fits her budget or an available unit in a market that remains reluctant to accept people with financial assistance.

CBS4’s Shawn Chitnis interviews Tonya Williams (credit: CBS)

“It’s been hard, there are not a lot of places out there,” said Tonya Williams, “There’s just a lot of calling and driving around of places.”

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Williams left her apartment in April trying to get away from an abusive relationship and managed to win the lottery for a voucher a week later. She got three months from the Jefferson County Housing Authority to find a property that fit the budget allotted for a single individual. She says too many apartments have waiting lists or do not want to accept her voucher and other options don’t seem safe to her.

(credit: CBS)

“The housing market is just ridiculous,” she said. “Finding a place that is below that and has an opening, it’s just been rough.”

The three months passed and she managed to get two 30-day extensions but still was unable to secure an apartment. She says in one case the difference between what she could cover and the rent they required was $30 a month. Another location that fell through would have been available but the apartment flooded in a rainstorm at the beginning of September. These circumstances have granted her another extension, Williams told CBS4 on Thursday.

Tonya Williams (credit: CBS)

“The whole voucher thing, three months is too little,” Williams said.

(credit: CBS)

Williams lives out of her car and often drives to the library to use the free Wi-Fi connection. The internet she receives from just outside the building helps her look for new apartment locations. She typically spends half of her day searching for a new housing option and says she is back by the library every other day.

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“Property managers and property owners need to understand that people that are on Section 8 are not bad,” Williams said.

Complicating matters for her, she takes medication for bipolar disorder and has to find a complex that will accept her service dog. She lives off Social Security and Medicare benefits but is still looking for work at the same time. A program through her health insurance gets her access to local gyms to shower and change clothes. She also travels around town to take care of her laundry. But she and her dog almost always sleep in her car, Williams says shelters are full.

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“We’re not bad people, we may have our problems like I have mine,” she said. “They need to open up to the idea of renting to us.”

Williams worries that in a such a competitive housing market where she must fight off a stigma around using a voucher, she and others may need more time to find a home. She is grateful for all the help she has gotten so far but wonders if there is a space for her in the county.

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“I’m tired of sleeping in my car, tired of everything,” she said. “I’m starting to lose hope.”

Shawn Chitnis reports weeknights for CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. Email him story ideas at smchitnis@cbs.com and connect with him on Twitter or Facebook.

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