UPDATE (11:24 PM Eastern): Officials now estimate that a crowd of 30,000 turned out, three times what they had originally anticipated. Some in attendance may have been accompanying actual applicants even if they were not applying themselves. 13,000 applications were handed out.
The large numbers indicate a huge demand, but there is literally no supply. The housing agency director "stressed that none of her agency's 455 housing aid vouchers is available at the moment."
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Concern is rising that a similar scene could occur Thursday when the housing authority of this small city begins accepting the completed applications. Wednesday's event was only to hand out the paperwork. The housing authority will begin accepting applications at 9 a.m."
More than a thousand people gathered Wednesday outside a metro-Atlanta shopping mall in hopes of being placed on a waiting list for federal housing assistance.
Fights broke out, children were reportedly trampled, and police had to stop the crowd from storming a nightclub being used by the East Point Housing Authority in East Point, Ga, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Television station 11Alive reports that the line for Section 8 housing vouchers formed two days ago and grew into the hundreds Tuesday night. People even slept outside the nightclub despite repeated assertions from the housing officials that the line was unnecessary and everyone would receive an application.
By Wednesday morning, the crowd had grown so large that East Point police began patrolling the area in riot gear and first responders were tending to people who were overheating in the sun.
People became frustrated when officials, feeling overwhelmed, did not open the doors at 9 a.m. as they had planned, reports CBS Atlanta. Those waiting in line were told by officials to move from one location to another before riot gear-clad police and housing officials handed out applications.
"I find this amazing," Ed Schultz said on "The Ed Show" Wednesday night. "One can only imagine watching this videotape ... how many other cities have it like this across America. And I think we have to ask ourselves the moral question, aren't we better than this?"
East Point's approximately 200 public housing units are full, according to 11Alive, and more than 400 Section 8 vouchers are already in use. It is unlikely that many of those waiting for the applications would ever receive the housing funds.
"A lot of these folks will never get off that waitlist, and the executive director of the housing authority acknowledged that today," NBC reporter Ron Mott told Schultz. "Dozens upon dozens of people passing out from the heat, standing in the heat just to apply for public housing. ... I've got to tell you, the first thought that I had when we pulled up on the scene here was whether we were in America."
According to the most recent data, the unemployment rate in Fulton County where East Point is located is 10.8 percent. The national average is 9.5 percent.
WATCH: The "Ed Show" report:
WATCH: Wednesday's chaos
WATCH: The scene on Tuesday