January 13, 2009
As the economic crisis continues, the AIDS Housing Alliance/SF and other San Francisco AIDS service providers report receiving more requests for assistance. AHA/SF received five applications for emergency financial help in December 2007. In December 2008, it processed 25 applications.
"We are struggling to keep up, and I don't have any money to hire additional help," said Brian Basinger, AHA/SF's founder and director. With a budget of about $300,000, the agency helps clients with back rent, move-in deposits, and other needs. It also has 10 single-room occupancy hotel rooms for temporary use. These are in great demand: AHA/SF turns away three times as many people as it helps each week.
AHA/SF is now seeing more clients who had never accessed social services prior to being laid off. "People are in a state of panic because their sense of hope that they're going to be able to get a new job has diminished," Basinger said. "At the same time, individual giving is down, the city is facing this massive need to prioritize spending, and rents are too high."
The AIDS Emergency Fund, which also helps clients in financial crisis, made grants totaling $152,000 to about 240 clients last month, compared to $97,000 distributed to 180 people the previous December. Forty-five new clients signed up in December, compared to 30 new clients in December 2007 - "which I think is a reflection of the economy - people needing help for the first time," said Executive Director Mike Smith.
Requests for help are also up at Project Open Hand, which delivers food to the homebound, including people with HIV. "We haven't seen a huge increase in the number of clients," said Executive Director Tom Nolan, but rather "an increased pattern of usage of the services." "We believe fully that's a reflection of the economy," he said.