September 14, 2012
Every once in a while, amidst all of the news, tweets, posts, and other technological white noise we are subjected to, we come across something that really just blows our minds.
Well, welcome to Wednesday. This morning on Housing Works' Twitter feed, I saw a headline that read, "California Latino LGBT and HIV Service Center Evicted 48 Hours After Opening." I clicked on the link and was brought to theadvocate.com, where I was dismayed to read that Bienestar, a Latino LGBT and HIV/AIDS service organization, was kicked out of its office space in Van Nuys, CA, because the landlord said the organization was "bringing disease" into the building.
According to the article and Bienestar's own press release, Bienestar signed a three-year lease, began operations on August 13th and then on August 14th, the landlord demanded that they vacate the premises, and then on August 15th, the locks were changed. Since then, Bienestar staffers have been unable to retrieve their personal belongings, clients' files have been left to gather dust as the space sits empty, and more importantly, those who need HIV testing, counseling and other imperative services are experiencing discrimination all over again.
Just when we feel like we may be finally turning the page in the fight against AIDS and all stigma and discrimination, we read stories like this and it just sets us back.
But you know what? It also incites us and inspires us to fight harder and longer.
And this landlord has just placed himself in the smack dab of a huge fight.
Our community needs to get involved. I called the Bienestar main offices this afternoon and was indeed told that yes, the landlord is still blocking Bienestar's access to the building. Fortunately, however, Bienestar has been able to continue key services -- rapid HIV tests, referrals and case management -- at its temporary mobile location in front of their old location at 14515 Hamlin Street, just down the road from their current locked-down site.
Want to get involved? Join the Facebook page the community has set up in support of Bienestar, and tweet the hell out of this story. Put it on your own Facebook page, and let your friends and networks know that the fight isn't over, and we will continue to take on people like this landlord.