Living on the edge 

A small wooden box filled with pink impatiens sits outside of the Dalton residence, just in front of the steps leading into the brown and white double-wide trailer off Russell Street. Inside, a ceramic milk pitcher filled with plastic pink, white and red baby roses sits on the center of the kitchen table. Coffee is on, as it is most evenings. Traci and Jim Dalton like to share a cup after dinner.

The Daltons are one of 3,600 families in Montana that receive a Section 8 voucher to help cover the cost of housing. For most, like the Daltons, it’s rent; for a few, mortgage. The multi-county Human Resource Council (HRC) is one of two organizations that administer the vouchers locally. Earlier this month, HRC announced to its voucher holders that cuts to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) budget could translate into cuts affecting anywhere between 250 and 400 voucher holders in Montana come January.

“Of course,” says Traci Dalton, warming her hands around a mug of hot coffee, “we just panicked.”

But there is little they can do.

Congress plans to review HUD’s budget before the end of the year.

The Daltons have been homeless before. But not since Jim Dalton got a job at Opportunity Resources, Inc. five years ago. He’s been working ever since. For a while, he worked two near-full-time jobs. (Still, the family of four qualified for housing assistance.) Traci Dalton has been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, a chronic-pain illness. Pain medication precludes her from working, though she gets stir-crazy.

“I’m not one for sitting at home,” she says. “It drives me crazy.” She looks at her husband. “Huh, honey?”

“She hasn’t lost it yet,” he says.

The Daltons say their 10- and 5-year-old like the big, fenced-in yard that wraps around their home. If they lose their voucher, they lose the home and the yard. While they wait, says Traci, they pray and send letters to Washington, D.C.

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