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Press Release

People With AIDS March Through State Capitol; Hold Prayer Vigil Outside Governor's Office

June 30, 2010

Albany, NY -- Sixty members of the NYC AIDS Housing Network (NYCAHN) marched through the State Capitol today to raise awareness about legislation that would prevent thousands of low-income New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS from becoming homeless. Following the march, they held a prayer vigil outside of Governor Paterson's office to call on him to support the bill, which was already passed by the Assembly and Senate earlier this year.

"Governor Paterson has an opportunity to combine his values of fiscal discipline and protecting vulnerable New Yorkers by supporting this bill because it will keep people like me out of the shelters and in our homes. When the Governor told me during AIDS Walk that he would deal with this bill through the budget, I took him at his word," said Jim Lister, a NYCAHN leader who pays 74% of his SSDI check towards rent each month despite being enrolled in a HIV/AIDS rental assistance program.

The legislation, introduced by Senator Tom Duane and Assembly Member Glick, would create an affordable housing protection for low-income people living with HIV/AIDS who rely on publicly funded rental assistance. Over 10,000 low-income people living with HIV/AIDS pay between 50-85% of their disability income (SSI, SSDI, Veteran's Benefits) towards rent each month, which leads to high rates of arrears, evictions and homelessness. Those who keep their homes are forced to choose between paying their rent or other essential needs like visiting the doctor, making co-pays and buying groceries. This is the only low-income housing assistance program of its kind in New York that does not cap the tenant's rent contribution at 30% of their income.

"I'm praying that Governor Paterson listens to his heart and his head when it comes to preventing homelessness among people living with HIV/AIDS. This is one of those rare issues where all sides of the Capitol, Republicans and Democrats, have come together to do the right thing for vulnerable New Yorkers in a way that also benefits taxpayers," said James Dean, a NYCAHN leader who sang a hymn outside of the Executive Chamber.

An independent fiscal analysis of the bill found it would produce millions of dollars in direct and immediate cost savings by reducing costly arrears, housing loss and placements into emergency housing. Advocates point out that the emergency housing system of commercial SRO hotels costs two to three times as much as the rental assistance program, even after factoring in the 30 percent rent cap. Approximately 2,400 low-income people living with HIV/AIDS paying half or more of their disability income become homeless every year and are placed into emergency housing.

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This article was provided by New York City AIDS Housing Network.
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