Image: Lines for stimulus cash in Detroit
Carlos Osorio  /  AP
Detroit residents, right, pick up forms to apply for federal stimulus funds at Cobo Center in Detroit on Wednesday. Scuffles erupted and several people were treated for fainting and exhaustion as thousands of Detroit residents tried to apply for free federal money.
updated 10/7/2009 6:34:43 PM ET 2009-10-07T22:34:43

Scuffles erupted as several thousands Detroit residents jockeyed, pushed and shoved Wednesday to get free money being offered to only 3,500 of the city's recently or soon to be homeless.

Several received medical treatment for fainting or exhaustion while frantically trying to obtain the applications for federal assistance. The long lines and short tempers highlighted the frustration and desperation that Detroiters feel struggling through an economic nightmare.

The line around downtown's Cobo Center started forming well before daybreak. Anger flared within a few hours as more people sought out a dwindling number of applications for the program.

Members of the Detroit Police Department's Gang Squad and other tactical units were called in for crowd control. Several people reportedly passed out from exhaustion and had to be treated by emergency medical personnel. Some minor injuries were reported, and no arrests were made.

"It's a sign of the times, and we can't deny we have people here who are in need," said Karen Dumas, communications director for Mayor Dave Bing. "It's scary and very disappointing. It also shows a need for redirection for our city."

One in four working-age adults in Detroit is without a job and the city's home foreclosure rate continues to be among the nation's highest. One in four families and three out of every 10 individuals live below the poverty level, according to the U.S. Census.

Before Wednesday, Detroit Planning and Development workers already had spent two days handling long lines at City Hall and other locations. Rumors that $3,000 stimulus checks from the Obama administration spurred heavy turnouts.

That helped get 33-year-old William Lambert and his 27-year-old fiancee, Iesha Wagner, to City Hall on Tuesday. Lambert said he is out of work and living with Wagner at her mother's home.

"We kind of fell on hard times," he said. "It's hard working as a carpenter and then not working at all. It's not good right now."

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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