• Go to www.chahousing.org for a list of numbers pulled in the lottery. The numbers also are posted at each public housing site and on the door at CHA's office at 801 N. Holtzclaw Ave.
• Chattanooga Housing Authority will host a meeting at 6 p.m. Oct. 25 at the Holtzclaw Avenue to tell landlords about the Housing Choice Voucher Program and answer any questions.
Source: Chattanooga Housing Authority
Each number represented a person.
No one was there to hear, but Theresa Biggs called them out anyway.
"0747, 3231, 2796, 2294."
She would call out 200 numbers before the housing voucher lottery was over, every one meaning the chance for a roof overhead for the lucky person chosen from among 5,000 applicants.
"This is the good stuff," said Biggs, manager of Chattanooga Housing Authority's Housing Choice Voucher waiting list. "The best part of our job is to be able to issue housing vouchers. Even though it's not enough, it's nice that we have 200."
At least 4,800 people will still need housing after Wednesday's lottery drawing is complete for the vouchers, also known as Section 8.
And even having a voucher doesn't guarantee a home. CHA officials said in August that 125 people already have rental vouchers but have found no landlord willing to accept them. In some cases the housing authority reduced the amount it pays landlords for rent.
On Wednesday, Charie Tucker, a 37-year-old mother of a teenage daughter, walked in halfway through the lottery process wanting her number to be called.
She's lived in College Hill Courts since 2006 with no problems, but this school year other teenagers in the community have threatened her 14-year-old daughter, she said. People call the girl names urging her to join a gang while she waits for the school bus.
"I just hope they pull my number," Tucker said. "I need to pull my daughter out of the neighborhood we're in."
It has been two years since applicants applied for the housing vouchers and, by the time of Wednesday's drawing, many have moved on, said Tammie Reeves, executive director of CHA's Housing Choice Voucher Program.
Of the 75 people called during the last lottery drawing in May, half didn't respond, said Reeves, and CHA only issued 32 vouchers from that drawing.
The drawing Wednesday was CHA's third lottery this year. The housing authority pulled 200 names in January and then 75 in May. Near the end of the year, CHA will pull 500 more names to be placed on a Section 8 waiting list. All other applications will be discarded and those who want Section 8 housing must reapply again in 2013, said Reeves.
In October 2010, CHA collected the 5,000 applications for the vouchers, the first time the authority had accepted Section 8 applications since 2008. At that time, people were so desperate, some applicants slept outside the CHA office to make sure they were first to turn in an application.
In October 2010, there was a steady stream of cars in the housing authority parking lot as people dropped off applications. And on the day of the lottery drawing later in October, people filled the CHA meeting room, hoping to hear their names called.
On Wednesday, only Biggs, Reeves and one other CHA employee were at the lottery drawing. Halfway through the process, as the ladies cheered about how fast they were moving, Tucker walked in, eyes red and crying.
Biggs continued calling numbers 4062, 1999, 4733. Then she stopped to ask Tucker her voucher number, but Tucker said she didn't know it. Biggs offered to look it up when she finished pulling.
Tucker held herself with her arms folded and shaking her leg while she waited.
"I don't even know my number, but I've been praying that they pull it. Oh my gosh," she said while sobbing.
In less than 30 minutes Biggs called all 200 numbers.
Biggs looked up Tucker's number on the computer, wrote it on a sticky note, then thumbed through the numbers pulled. Reeves also checked. But Tucker's number wasn't called.
Tucker rocked herself and continued crying while Biggs tried to console her.