CAMDEN When she heard rats running in the ceiling overhead and saw water dripping near exposed wires, Anisa Davis knew she had to move her children out of the Section 8 apartment she had lived in for years.

So she moved in with her sister, sleeps on the floor, and has started the long, and so far unsuccessful, process of looking for alternate affordable housing.

"My landlord, he's never slept on the floor in the kind of house I have," Davis said. "People need to have hands-on experience. I want them to see it."

Thanks to photos Davis took as part of the Witnesses to Hunger Project, they might. Davis has documented her struggles in photographs, along with 10 other women. The exhibit is on display Thursday through Saturday at Gallery Eleven One at 339 N. Front Street.

The project, founded in Philadelphia in 2008, came to Camden this year. Ten women, armed with digital cameras, have snapped gripping images of hunger and homelessness in their communities and in many cases turned the lens on their own lives.

In Camden, close to half (47.7 percent) of households with children under 5 were living in poverty in 2011.

The photo exhibit includes empty refrigerators, a participant's smiling son on his first day of school, abandoned buildings, and street-corner memorials.

At a panel discussion Wednesday to launch the exhibit, Davis discussed her experiences and frustrations accessing assistance programs. Another woman involved in the program said she couldn't even get a voucher and was told the waiting list was three to five years.

Diane J. Johnson, field office director for Housing and Urban Development, told Davis by day's end "she wouldn't be sleeping on the floor." Still, Johnson acknowledged for those without vouchers, finding affordable housing can be a tremendous challenge.

"You're going to say there's not enough Section 8 vouchers, and I'm going to agree with you," Johnson said at the panel. "This is the type of audience that needs to share their voice with Congress. The programs for low-income families are already in place. They just need more dollars." 

- Julia Terruso