Can you accept that HIV/AIDS is a death sentence for poor New Yorkers?

Homelessness can be a virtual death sentence for a person living with HIV/AIDS.”
 More Than A Home – How Affordable Housing for New Yorkers with HIV/AIDS Will Prevent Homelessness, Improve Health and Reduce Costs”, Report from VOCAL-NY and the Community Development Project at the Urban Justice Center, May 17, 2013.

A new study released last week by activist group VOCAL-NY and the Urban Justice Center called for limiting the rent-to-income ratio for poor people living with HIV/AIDS to no more than 30%. Those who follow housing issues know they aren’t alone; spending no more than 30% of income on housing is HUD’s definition of affordable housing.

Care for the Homeless clients, staff and volunteers braved
the elements on Sunday to raise the profile on AIDS
issues and raise money for AIDS programs.
But in New York City’s “independent living” rental assistance program for low-income people living with HIV/AIDS, administered by the city HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA), some people are forced to pay up to 70% of their disability income in rent. The outcome of that burden is hardly surprising. All too many low-income HIV patients are homeless and thousands and thousands of them are at-risk of homelessness.

That’s not just a statistic at Care for the Homeless. We provide health care and human services to homeless HIV/AIDS patients. Today a CFH client leader, a member of our HIV/AIDS Advisory Committee, is facing eviction as he struggles to stay housed in the HASA rental independent living program.

The newly issued report, based on interviews and focus groups with those in the HASA subsidy program who lost housing, reached four major conclusions.
  • The severe rent burden causes loss of housing.
  • Lack of affordable housing means sacrificing other basic needs. People in the HASA independent living program are budgeted to live on as little as $12 a day after rent! Of those in the program who lost their housing, 65% reported having to choose between housing and other necessities,  47% reported they couldn’t afford food and 48% couldn’t pay for basic transportation like subway fares.
  • Homelessness and housing instability adversely impacted health. Among those in the HASA program losing housing 52% reported visiting an emergency room within six months of entering a shelter and 38% were admitted to a hospital during the same period. Most of them reported difficulty in keeping medical appointments and 47% said they had difficulty in continuing to take medications regularly. That’s why Care for the Homeless says “housing is health care.”

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