Organizers of this Friday’s Family Empowerment Fair said the event is about more than the reopening of Janesville’s Section 8 waiting list.

The city is expecting people to camp overnight in advance of the waiting list opening to ensure an early place in line. When the city has opened its Section 8 waiting list in the past, between 400 and 600 people have signed up on the first day, said Sarah Holford, city housing services administrative assistant.

With more than 30 other agencies involved in event promotion, the crowd might surpass 1,000, she said.

Janesville wanted to include other organizations so visitors could explore resources besides housing assistance. The city contacted a few agencies, but soon many others responded because they wanted to be part of the fair, Holford said.

“We wanted it to feel welcoming and inviting. We didn’t want this to feel like a very clinical event as a lot of these types of things can,” Holford said. “If we can make it feel uplifting at least for a day, why not?”

The city is collaborating with service organizations in Rock County to host the fair, which will run 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday at the Rock County Job Center, 1900 Center Ave., Janesville.

Janesville closed its Section 8 waiting list in January 2018. It needed time to work through the many names and families seeking rental assistance.

The city will keep the wait list open from Friday until June 28. Holford expects enough people will sign up during those four weeks that Janesville once again will have to close the list and work through the names, she said.

It’s hard to say how long it will take to work through the list. That will depend on how many people apply and how many people respond when their turn comes.

It’s common for applicants to not respond when the city contacts them with an assistance offer, Holford said. Some move away. Some no longer need the help.

Some of the organizations participating in the fair are groups directly involved with housing, such as ECHO or Salvation Army. Others go beyond that.

Blackhawk Technical College will be there with information on continuing education. Blackhawk Community Credit Union will share details about personal finance. Health agencies and anti-crime groups will be represented, too.

“It’s an all-encompassing list,” Holford said.

“There is going to be a program available for everyone whether you have stable housing or don’t, if you’re a single person or family. There’s going to be resources available for everyone,” Holford said. “It never hurts to come in and have a conversation.

“Maybe there’s a program you didn’t even know existed that can help you with something you’re struggling with.”

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