December 4, 2002
The recent New York City Council hearing on the HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HSSA) highlighted the city's increase in homelessness among people with AIDS. Over 30,000 New Yorkers with AIDS currently live in shelters, on the streets, or in inadequate and filthy housing, usually single-room occupancy tenement hotels. The caseload is rising at the rate of about 10 percent each year.
"However you look at it, the numbers have gone up since the late 1990s," said Gina Quattrochi, the executive director of Bailey House. Quattrochi pointed to several units that could be available if the city would streamline the approval process for both clients and housing. The situation has gotten so desperate that several people with AIDS are being warehoused in hostels like Rivington House on the Lower East Side.
New York City AIDS Housing Network Director Jennifer Flynn echoed Quattrochi's concern. "We could be housing many more [clients] than we are now just by getting them away from bureaucratic barriers."
Flynn said prospects of cuts in HSSA "is the most dangerous and short-sighted public policy possible." Emergency shelter costs significantly more than permanent housing in the long run, but the city, under court order, is forced to make such short-term housing available. Such remedies will only perpetuate the problem, advocates say.
"The Bloomberg administration is long on p.r. but short on substance," said Armen Merjian, the attorney for Housing Works. "There's no substantive change from the previous administration."
"Common sense and public health principles dictate that people with AIDS and HIV are entitled to decent, affordable housing and to the services they need to remain stable, healthy and independent," said Merjian. "Yet society's response to this crisis has been late and inadequate." On Dec. 5, several groups dedicated to housing for people with AIDS will hold a rally on the steps of City Hall.