How to Apply for Emergency Section 8

You Will Learn:
  • How to find emergency housing
  • How to qualify for Section 8
  • What Section 8 regards as “Special Circumstance”
  • Tips to get approved as soon as possible
  • How to write a Reasonable Accommodation Housing Letter


Real estate agent with house model and keys

Are you in need of emergency housing? Perhaps you’ve been evicted from your previous home, staying with friends or family, sleeping on the streets, been kicked out of your family home or you’re in danger of being hurt at your home.

Short Video Shows Little-Known Loopholes: How to Get Emergency Housing Assistance

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Whichever the case may be, we’ve written this article to give you all the necessary information you need about emergency housing.

There are several options available for those who need emergency housing. The HUD sponsors emergency housing programs for people defined as homeless according to federal standards, and these programs are easily available online, including HUD’s website.

There are also several charity programs offering housing assistance.

All you have to do is follow the HUD portal link above, click on the link for your state, then go to the ‘I Want To’ section and select ‘Find Homeless Resources.

There you will see a list of emergency housing resources available in your area. It’s always best to apply in person at the agency.

How do You Qualify for Emergency Section 8?

To qualify for emergency section 8, you have to meet the basic requirements, which include having a low income below 80% of the area median income, being a citizen or legal immigrant, and having a clean background check.

Then, you must have a special circumstance.

Situations regarded as special circumstances include those who are:

  • Physically abused in their home
  • Single parents who pay more than 50% of their income as rent
  • Disabled people
  • Senior citizens
  • Veterans
  • Homeless or about to be homeless
  • Victims of natural disasters
  • People who are about to be displaced from current public housing

What is the Quickest Way to Get Section 8?

To be placed on the priority list, you have to meet at least one of the special circumstances previously mentioned.

The more special conditions you have, the greater your chances are of being moved to the top of the list.

Other than having a number of critical cases, there is no other way to get section 8 quickly, as the vouchers are only distributed as they are made available, the wait can be long especially given demand on housing assistance in 2020due to the impact of COIV-19 Pandemic.

Generally, you must be able to provide proof of your disability or special condition.

Even with a special case, we found that it is vital to stay in contact with your PHA about your application. We found that staying in touch can help you avoid years on the waitlist.

Also be sure to have access to your email, mail and phone, you don’t want to miss any attempts the PHA may make to contact you. 

Please note, anyone who asks you to pay some amount of money to get a section voucher quickly is likely trying to scam you.

Emergency Housing Near Me

You can find out about emergency housing near you by contacting the closest local public housing authority. You can easily find the contact information of PHA in any locality here.

You could also ask a social worker for emergency housing options or find out about local charities close to you.

Permanent Housing for Homeless Families

Permanent housing programs such as section 8 are available to assist homeless families in getting affordable long term housing. We also have the Permanent Supportive Housing Program for homeless and disabled families.

The Permanent Supportive Housing Program provides case management support services in addition to housing, to build independence and tenancy skills and to connect the residents with health care, treatment, and employment services.

Reasonable Accommodation Housing Letter

Individuals with disabilities are granted reasonable accommodation to enable them to experience an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling. The request for reasonable accommodation is often made through a letter.

HUD has provided a sample reasonable accommodation letter here, to help you craft a proper one.

Emergency housing programs have been put in place across all the states to help individuals and families who need urgent housing. The programs may be government or charity based.

You could ask around for programs that offer emergency housing assistance or search online platforms like HUD’s portal for emergency housing close to you.

Frequently Asked Questions about HUD’s Section 8 Housing


Does my income qualify for Section 8?

The HUD section 8 housing voucher program is for low-income families, i.e., with incomes well below the median income for the area. 

The federal government calculates these median incomes for the entire country. The national median income for the year 2021 is $79,900.

If your family’s income (not your individual income) is less than half of the national median income of $79,990 you may be eligible for HUD’s section 8 housing voucher program and meet the income limit conditions. 

You can compare your gross family income (all earnings before you pay your taxes) to the low, very-low and extremely-low income limits. To know the income limits for your area and to estimate the category of your family’s income limit use the links below.

Use the link below click on FY2021 IL Documentation and in the next page choose the state and county of your residence or choose the metropolitan area from the list.

Income Limits for Area 2021

If you click on FY2021 MFI Documentation you can find the median family income for your county or metropolitan area.

Median Family Income for Area 2021

The federal government’s calculation of the fair market rent (rent that is at what the government considers current market rates) for your county or metropolitan area is available at the link below. For metropolitan areas zip codes are used to be more accurate.

Fair Market Rent for Area 2021

Where can I apply for emergency Section 8?

While Section 8 is federal, it is administered by the public housing authority (PHA) closest to you and priority is given to residents of the given area. 

However, once the housing voucher is provided you are free to move to any other location. The benefits will continue as long as the correct procedure is followed in terminating the tenancy contract with your current landlord and finding a new suitable house as per the terms of the housing voucher program. 

If you apply in a county or metropolitan area where you do not live and if you are provided with a housing choice voucher you must move to the county or metropolitan area and live there for at least 12 months. After this period, you are free to move and continue receiving the vouchers. 

In general, HUD rental assistance programs provide 2 kinds of housing choice vouchers to choose from as described below: 

Tenant-based Voucher: 

A tenant is free to choose the housing suitable to them that meets the PHA guidelines for voucher ability.

Project-based Voucher: 

The voucher is specific to a housing unit or housing project and if the family moves, the voucher will no longer be applicable. The family will have to apply for a tenant-based voucher if they would want to continue receiving support.

Who can I talk to about emergency Section 8?

If you wish to talk to someone or require assistance for your emergency Section 8 application process, call the toll-free service number. It is likely that they will direct you to the PHA nearest to you.

HUD’s Help Desk 

Hours of Operation 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. EST

Monday – Friday, except for Federal Holidays

Contact Information

(800) 955-2232 (Toll-Free)

Required information from an applicant when contacting rental assistance offices:

  • Name
  • Email Address
  • Phone Number
  • Organization Name
  • Clear Description of Question or Issue


How can I sign up for emergency Section 8?

To learn how to sign up you will need to find the nearest PHA. Before you approach and begin your application with the housing authorities, please ensure that you meet the conditions of eligibility and have the necessary documentation. 

Apply for tenant housing choice vouchers if you rent or property housing choice vouchers for mortgage payments if you own. It’s important to understand that greater need in an area doesn’t necessarily increase the availability of rental units on section 8, and other charitable organizations may have to fill the gap. So look for programs from community agencies that address local housing needs as well.

Criteria for eligibility/program requirements

  • US Citizen or have eligible immigration status
  • Income limits (category), earning an income is a mandatory requirement. This program is not suitable for families without income.

Details required

  • Names of all Family Members
  • Dates of Birth
  • Social Security Numbers & documentation that verifies citizenship or eligible immigration status
  • Gross income of earning family members

       Other details required:

  • Mailing Address
  • eMail Address
  • Phone numbers
  • Housing history (including evictions)
  • Criminal history (if any)

If you have a family member who has been evicted from public housing or removed from Section 8 program due to drug related criminal activity they are ineligible for at least 3 years from the date of eviction.

Documents Required

  • Pay stub or verified salary information from employer
  • Document confirming rent from property owner or your mortgage information
  • Identification documents

Family Definition

  • A family with or without children
  • A family with elder members, members over the age of 62 
  • A family with members with disability
  • A displaced family (involuntarily displaced)
  • A remaining member of a tenant family
  • A single person

Where can I find my nearest PHA?

To find a list of Public Housing Authorities for your state follow the link below and choose your state, then download the PDF list for your state and search in the document for your specific county or the counties nearest to you. 

Or, use the map to find your nearest public housing agencies:

Applications can be online, mail-in or at the housing authority in person. Don’t shy away from asking questions and if you are unsure about any information required in the application clarify the details to aid you as you submit your application. 

You must complete all required details, please consult with the PHA representative if you feel unsure about any particular detail. It is better to have all the details correct before submission than to have the application rejected due to incorrect or insufficient information.

What do I need to know about wait lists for Section 8?

Here are some important facts you must know about the housing choice voucher waiting lists. This differs from one PHA to another and is based on the priorities of the PHA’s program in the community. 

The status of the wait list can be confirmed with the PHA either online or through inquiry based on application details. Rejections of applications will be informed by email, mail or other appropriate means adopted by the PHA. 

  • Long waiting list can sometimes take longer than 3 years before being provided with a housing choice voucher and subsidy
  • PHA priorities are based on the needs of the regional communities
  • Some PHA’s use a lottery system and sometimes programs are closed due to unavailability of funding or housing units. These closures are periodic and will eventually reopen. It is advised in this case that applying to nearby counties or metropolitan areas may improve your odds of having your application approved.
  • An involuntary homelessness situation is always prioritized, particularly for families with elderly members and persons with disabilities
  • Families living in sub-standard apartments are prioritized as are families paying rent over 50% of their family income for an apartment

Is it possible to speed up the process of getting Section 8?

Yes, under certain specific circumstances. The mechanism for getting Section 8 on an emergency basis is also called a priority list, and is assessed based on a point scale of the most urgent needs as determined by the particular PHA. The below conditions are considered for emergency Section 8 applications. 

In certain circumstances, family services or FEMA would provide temporary shelter prior to the processing of emergency Section 8. Anyone who applies for emergency housing choice vouchers must meet all the conditions required for section 8 approval as well.

Emergency Section 8 applicants receive priority for emergency housing vouchers if they are:

  • Senior Citizens
  • Persons with Disabilities
  • Veterans
  • Women Fleeing Domestic Violence or abuse
  • Persons fleeing a disaster (as recognized by FEMA)
  • Anyone displaced from public housing

You May Also Be Interested In: Who can live in your Section 8 unit

  • Hi, My name is Britney, I’m trying to get assistance or resources for emergency housing for me and my son, he is one years old. We are now homeless with no where to go, it’s been so difficult in the last year. And we need help in this time of need for me and my son to call home. Thank you for your time and support
    Britney D

  • The owner of my little house said he would honor section 8 if I could get the voucher. How can I do this? I rent and pay $950.00 per month. This takes up almost all of my Social Security monthly.. I also pay my own Electricity and water bill. I rent this location:

    • Hi Stephanie,

      The first step is to contact your local Public Housing Agency, You can read more about the steps to take for applying for Section 8 Housing Vouchers here We think this article will explain exactly what to do for your situation.

      Best of luck!

  • Everytime I go to the HUD portal, it says the list is close. Then they send me around in circles. I am disabled, a single mom, low income and I am in dire need of emergency housing but no matter who I email, I get the same resources and I’m getting nowhere. How do I apply????????

    • Hi Erin, sorry to hear of your frustrations. You definitely aren’t the first to complain of the difficulty of applying for housing through HUD. This is why we have created this site, to help people understand how to apply for the assistance programs they need. Hopefully we can help you.
      step 1. contact your local public housing authority
      Select your state and then search for the housing agency nearest to your zip code. It sounds like you have already tried this however.
      Step 2. A simple google search type “public housing agency near me” this will generally give your local housing authorities that you can contact.
      Step 3. read our article for more information about section 8 The Steps to Section 8

  • I’m about to be evicted at the end of the month please help us I have a granddaughter that is 8 and I have signed up for public housing just waiting to hear back

    • Hi Kutina, Thank you for leaving a comment. We are sorry to hear of your urgent need for housing, we can understand how stressful being in need of housing can be.
      Hopefully Public Housing will be able to get back to you soon. You might also want to try to apply to Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers as well as Low Income Housing Tax Credits Properties. There is nothing in the HUD guidelines that says you can’t apply for multiple housing assistance programs. IN FACT doing so may increase your odds of getting the assistance you need.

      Also be sure to let your PHA know that you are caring for children and facing homelessness. This type of special circumstance may move you to the top of the wait list.

      The HUD resource locator could help you contact multiple Housing agencies in your area, follow the instructions in this article. Affordable Housing Common Q & A
      Best of luck! God bless!

    • Hi Mary, thank you for your comment. We sympathize with your situation and we hope we can be of assistance. We recommend that you reapply for Section 8. and after doing so that confirm you are on a wait list. We suggest following the steps in this article The Steps to Section 8

  • Hello! I moved to Texas 5 months ago and am currently living with my son and his family. I’m a 65 year old on disability but want my own place and enough room for my sister who wants to move here to be with me. I didn’t realize the cost of living though.

    • Hi, Carolyn B! Yes, unfortunately the cost of living only rises. If you would like to find a place for you and your sister, I suggest using our Application Guide tool found <a HERE/” title=”Sec 8 Application Tool”>HERE. Our guide will walk you through all of the processes of finding a Section 8 Apartment in your neighborhood. Also, keep in mind you will need your sister’s evidence of income if you plan on having her live with you.

  • Landlord selling and we only have 15 days to move with nowhere to go I have a disabled son also I have section 8 please help

    • Hi Barbara, that seems like an urgent situation. If you already have a Section 8 voucher, In our opinion your best option is to contact the PHA office that manages your voucher. They may have a list of landlords that accept Section 8 Vouchers that they can provide. They may also be able to help you with temporary housing until you find a new home. You may also be able to check your lease, some leases will require your landlord to give you 30-60 days notice of eviction
      You can check with your PHA office about special requirements that landlord agreed to before renting to HUD sponsored section 8. Typically extended move out dates are required for section 8 tenants. The landlord wouldn’t likely be able to force you to move so quickly if you have section 8. Look into this with your PHA and be sure that your landlord is operating legally.

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