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Article: Housing Issues

Reports show that approximately 500,000 persons living with HIV nationwide will use HOPWA funds during the course of their illness. Unfortunately, the need is greater than the available funding.

HOPWA in Los Angeles

At the local level, the HOPWA program is facing dramatic changes:
  • The waiver for the HOPWA Short Term Rental, Mortgage and Utility Assistance Program (STAP) has been denied by HUD, and most STAP clients could become ineligible for further assistance this year.

  • The HOPWA Coordinator, the City of Los Angeles' second highest-ranking employee dedicated full time to HIV issues, has been relieved of her duties.


  • Current HOPWA service providers face funding cuts of up to 35 percent beginning April 1, 2003.

The Los Angeles City Council and the Mayor's office provided up to $3 million in supplemental funding for the continuation of the HOPWA program during the current fiscal year (FY 2002) which will expire on March 31, 2003. By April 1, 2003 funds will be dramatically decreased.

Last year, the Los Angeles Housing Department (LAHD) applied for a waiver to continue to provide rental assistance to clients through the STAP program every 90 days, which was granted by L.A.'s HUD office. This year, the LAHD applied for a waiver to continue operating the program, but HUD (the Washington, D.C., office) denied the waiver. The LAHD are very supportive of the program and its continuation, and are in negotiations with HUD.

With all these new changes at the local level, thousands of individuals and families living with HIV/AIDS could be at risk of becoming homeless.

A Critical Need

Studies confirm that stable housing is one of the greatest needs of persons living with HIV/AIDS.

Without stable housing, people with HIV/AIDS cannot adhere to complex drug regimens, nutrition and care vital to survival. Stable housing, along with appropriate supportive services responsive to individuals' complex needs, increases the ability of access and compliance with critical life-sustaining HIV/AIDS treatment.

Without stable housing, people with HIV cannot adhere to vital nutrition. Many anti-HIV drugs require specific nutrition guidelines to their absorption into the bloodstream. Other medications need to be taken with specific food products to offset the side effects.

Homelessness in L.A.

In 2000, the HOPWA program in L.A. assisted approximately 10,000 people with HIV; in 2001, HOPWA assisted approximately 13,000 people. Without the sufficient housing subsidies that HOPWA funding supports, poor and low-income persons in every part of Los Angeles County -- and their families -- are at significant risk of homelessness.

AIDS is a disease that increases the risk of homelessness, disproportionately affecting persons with very low-income and communities of color. Many HIV-positive people in Los Angeles are coping with two other major issues: homelessness and mental illnesses. The vast majority of households have been living on incomes of less than $6,000 per year.

You can voice your opinion on this issue by calling your City Council member. Express your concerns and explain how this program has assisted you, your friends, family, your loved ones and your clients.

Marlon Valdivia, M.D.Marlon Valdivia, M.D., manages AIDS Project Los Angeles' Residential Services and also serves as member of the Board of Directors of the National AIDS Housing Coalition. He can be reached by calling (213) 201-1435, or by e-mail at

Back to the September/October 2002 issue of Positive Living.

This article has been reprinted at The Body with the permission of AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA).

See Also
More on U.S. Gov't Housing Assistance in Western States


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