FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | November 29, 2011 | Contact: Sean Barry, 646.373.3344
VOCAL-NY statement in response to the NYC Independent Budget Office’s new report: “Will the Mayor Still Be Looking for Savings? Growth in AIDS Caseload Slows and Spending Per Case Eases Downward.” The IBO report is available for online.
Today’s IBO report in advance of World AIDS Day is a reminder of the shamefully high rates of homelessness among people living with HIV/AIDS under Mayor Bloomberg and his repeated attempts to cut funding at a time of rising need.
Homelessness can be deadly for people living with HIV/AIDS, which is the reason why the NYC HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA) was created in the first place. It can make it difficult to adhere to medication, maintain proper nutrition and keep medical appointments, which increase the risk of illness and premature death. Furthermore, high levels of emergency housing use within HASA is an avoidable and unnecessary expense since the agency is required to offer a range of permanent housing options that are less costly on average.
HASA can significantly reduce homelessness among people living with HIV/AIDS and close the revolving door in and out of emergency housing for their clients by implementing an affordable housing 30% rent cap protection in their rental assistance program. This policy will pay for itself by reducing rental arrears and emergency housing placements, while improving health outcomes.
Under the current policy, HASA clients who receive rental assistance are required to pay upwards of 70% or more of their disability payments towards rent, forcing them to sacrifice basic necessities and leading many back into costly emergency housing after they fall into arrears. Instead, HASA clients should be required to pay no more than 30% of their disability income towards rent – the same standard already used in every comparable low-income housing program in the state.
According to the IBO report, one in twenty HASA clients are homeless at any point in time, or an average of 1,680 HASA clients in 2011, even though the agency’s overall caseload has remained fairly steady during the past decade. This rate of homelessness has not declined significantly since 2005. (The IBO report misclassifies transitional congregate facilities as supportive housing – HASA classifies it as emergency housing for homeless clients.)
The IBO report also found that Mayor Bloomberg reduced funding for HASA despite a 6.5% increase in HASA’s caseload during the past three years, an increase caused by deepening poverty in the city. Bloomberg would have made even deeper cuts if not for actions by the City Council that maintained support for core housing and nutrition services.
In addition to backing an affordable housing protection for HASA clients, Mayor Bloomberg should restore funding for supportive housing case management that is currently being funded year to year by City Council. About 4,500 HASA clients who have co-occurring mental health and substance use issues rely on supportive housing to remain connected to healthcare and stably housed. In the 2011-2012 City budget, Bloomberg sought more than $7 million in cuts for HIV/AIDS housing and nutrition programs.
VOCAL-NY is a grassroots organization building power among low-income people affected by HIV/AIDS, mass incarceration and the drug war to create healthy and just communities. More information at www.VOCAL-NY.org.