Mourning the loss of our friend and fighter, James Dean

James Dean VOCAL 2014 Gala

This week we mourn the loss of James Dean. A committed board member and leader of VOCAL at the forefront of the 30% rent cap campaign, fight for a fair economy and so much more. James will be remembered for his warm smile and joy while fighting for housing, human rights and the basic dignity of low-income people living with HIV/AIDS. He could out-dance the youngest of our allies at any party, teaching them the moves from his youth, while showing them he had already learned theirs. We will always remember his spiritual and powerful voice at protests that turned our pain into hope and power. And his powerful words, exemplified in this Observer piece when we protested Governor Paterson’s veto of the 30% rent cap.

Yesterday, Governor Paterson vetoed a bill that would have capped the rents people with HIV and AIDS pay at 30 percent, calling it “my most difficult veto” but a necessary evil to keep the state’s grotesque budget at bay. Today, not surprisingly, a bunch of protesters showed up outside the governor’s offices here in the city to express their frustration.

“Even though I’m in a rental assistance program, I’m constantly forced to rob Peter to pay Paul. One month I pay the gas and telephone bill and the next month I pay the light bill, all the while hoping that nothing gets shut off,” James Dean, who pays 62 percent of his monthly disability income toward rent, told Gothamist. Advocates now fear those in the program–many of whom pay a majority of their income toward rent despite the subsidy–could be forced into the streets, making it even harder for them to receive care, which could also become more expensive as a result, still taxing the state’s limited resources.”

The family is making arrangements for a memorial this Friday. Please let us know if you like to be notified of the time and location. Click here to view photos of James.

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