Ten years ago, Sebastian Valle was in a fight for his life. He was drunk, out of work and homeless. When Child Protective Services in California threatened to take his three young daughters away, Valle made a change. He moved into a homeless shelter, took part in its many programs and got sober. Finally, he used the Section 8 program to find an affordable apartment. Today, he owns his own home [source: Bullock].
Section 8 is not a first-come, first-served program. It's a lifeline for many people like Valle. Housing officials have wide latitude in establishing which people receive vouchers. The PHAs base those on individual housing needs. In most communities, PHAs give preference to the homeless, those living in substandard housing or those who are paying more than 50 percent of their income in rent [source: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development].
Section 8 also gives preference to victims of domestic violence and child abuse. In addition, applicants who might have a family member that is cooperating in a criminal investigation -- and have been threatened by a defendant or someone associated with that defendant -- can be moved to the front of the housing assistance line [source: New York City Housing Authority].