July 3, 2003
Homeless With HIV/AIDS
New York City's HIV/AIDS Services Administration
thousands of homeless people with HIV/AIDS, and is failing to meet its
legal obligation to provide decent housing for those suffering from the
disease, an audit by City Comptroller William Thompson found. The
report says that people are left stranded in homeless shelters for
months when case managers fail to track the progress of housing
applications. Since 1985, the city has been required to provide
homeless HIV/AIDS patients with "medically appropriate housing,"
including individual refrigerated food and medicine storage and
adequate bathroom facilities with locking doors.
NYC is still the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic in the U.S.
Mayor Bloomberg is on a mission to dismantle HASA (HIV/AIDS Services Administration), and make it even harder for PWAs to access needed services.
Hundreds Protest AIDS Budget
reported by BENJAMIN RYAN, Gay City News
Vitriolic, no-holds-barred AIDS activism has returned to New York City.
Following a passionate rally against the Bloomberg administration's proposed AIDS budget cuts and changes to the HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA) that drew 200 demonstrators to City Hall May 14, 2003, a group of several dozen AIDS advocates committed civil disobedience by blocking the building's front doors and were willingly arrested.
The demonstrators, animated throughout and at times shouting deafening chants, expressed outrage over the mayor's wish to privatize agency services and the fear that the budget cuts would lead to HASA's complete dismantling. They lambasted his plans to push HASA clients into welfare-to-work programs, and to move the Mayor's Office of AIDS Policy Coordination into the Department of Health and Mental Services.
And, in what has become a common refrain against a mayor with unfavorable poll numbers that are unprecedented, the activists said Michael Bloomberg's extraordinary personal wealth keeps him out of touch with the needs of poor New Yorkers. Before 30 of the demonstrators were arrested by a swarm of police when they locked arms in front of City Hall's doors, they led the crowd in chanting, "Bloomberg, billionaire, people with AIDS, he don't care."
A division of the Human Resources Administration (HRA), HASA provides an array of welfare aid, including housing assistance, to approximately 30,000 lower-income New Yorkers with AIDS, as well as 15,000 of their family members. A Gay City News special investigation last summer found that the agency wastes millions of taxpayer dollars on exorbitant rents to house clients in "medically inappropriate" single room occupancy hotels, and that HASA suffers from critical mismanagement that endangers the health and well being of its most needy clients. (http://www.lgny.com/GCN14/homeless.html)
During the past seven months, HRA Commissioner Verna Eggleston has promised to produce a blueprint for a total restructuring of HASA, an agency which she told the City Council last November she inherited in a broken state.
Local AIDS advocates have pushed to be a part of this restructuring process and, for a time, some felt their voices were being heard in planning meetings with representatives from HRA and the Mayor's Office on AIDS Policy. But now many argue that these meetings were false fronts and that the Bloomberg administration was all along acting in the utmost secrecy and without community input, at times lying outright to the advocates about their pending plans to change HASA.
"This administration has said they would engage the HIV/AIDS community about any changes that would happen in the budget and in service delivery in this city," Joey Pressley, executive director of the New York AIDS Coalition, told the demonstrators. "Well, you know what? That's not happening. The mayor has basically lied to our community."
According to Pressley and other leading AIDS advocates, the truth of Bloomberg's intentions has only trickled out in public announcements over the past month.
In only the most recent example of what critics charge is the administration's bad faith, advocates said that when they met with Gary Sutnick from the Office of AIDS Friday May 9, he never mentioned plans to move HASA clients into the welfare-to-work programs. But they learned about the matter the next day in The New York Times.
Bloomberg representatives did not return several phone calls from Gay City News.
In his April 15 report outlining 2004 budget cuts, Bloomberg proposed two plans for restructuring HASA. In his less-severe budget, the city would contract out the jobs of 29 case managers to community-based organizations, thus beginning the privatization of the system. This would yield a savings of $1 million in tax levy funds.
Armen Merjian, staff attorney at Housing Works, which provides legal services to people with HIV/AIDS, questioned why the city would endeavor to privatize such a large and important city function for such small potential savings.
In the mayor's "doomsday plan," the city would eliminate all city funds for case management at a savings of nearly $19 million and would reduce by 10 percent payments for permanent housing for 4,000 clients, saving about $5 million. Advocates fear that some of the clients in permanent housing will end up on the streets because of the cuts.
The doomsday proposal would require a change in Local Law 49, which was created in 1997 and strictly guarantees the rights of HASA clients and mandates specific case manager-to-client ratios. Numerous class action lawsuits waged against HRA by Housing Works have all come down against the city, strengthening and clarifying the law. Changing the law could roll back the protections afforded HASA clients by the Housing Works wins.
In his first ever speech on AIDS, given on March 13, the mayor indicated his desire to amend the law, which he claimed was out of date for today's needs. Despite the fact that such a change would need to pass the City Council, Christine Quinn, the out lesbian Democrat who is chair of the Council's health committee says she has never been consulted about the matter.
In a telephone interview May 13, Quinn said she has expressed her concern over the proposed changes to Bloomberg officials, informing them that they should consult with her about their plans as soon as possible.
"And as far as I can tell, that concern has fallen on deaf ears, because I've heard nothing," she said.
Quinn said that the proposed changes to Local Law 49 "really erode the core mission of HASA and begin the deterioration and elimination of HASA. And that's not something I can support and something that I think will put people living with AIDS in this city in significant jeopardy."
At the rally, Councilmember Philip Reed, the HIV-positive representative from Upper Manhattan and the South Bronx, told the crowd, "You have every right in the world to be upset and probably skeptical," about the mayor's proposed changes. Reed echoed the critique made by others that the process was marred by secretiveness.
Charles King, Housing Works' co-president, was less diplomatic, shouting to the crowd, "I'm not skeptical about what the mayor's trying to do. I don't need to discuss this anymore. I know what the mayor is up to. This mayor is out to dismantle and destroy AIDS services in New York City."
King went on to list various hardships of poverty which "our billionaire mayor" doesn't comprehend: living on the street, waiting for social security checks, being cut off Medicaid."
A Housing Works press release claimed that Bloomberg is essentially trying to do away with the Office of AIDS Policy by moving it from the mayor's office into the Department of Health, which the group charged would eliminate meaningful oversight of the city's AIDS services. The release pointed to another example of the apparent campaign of misinformation, noting Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott and Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden had previously "vehemently denied to the AIDS community that such a 'merger' would take place."
The release also complained that Bloomberg's budget failed to include the $5 million City Council initiative in earlier budgets for HIV prevention and care services targeting communities of color.
HASA client Anthony Howell told Gay City News about his fear that the mayor's plan to move HASA clients into work programs will spoil his chances at improving his market skills by obtaining an advanced degree. Howell receives rental subsidies from the agency as well as income from Social Security Disability while he pursues a masters in African American and museum studies from NYU.
"Yes, there are those of us who should go to work and could work," he acknowledged. "But there are many of us who won't be able to work. I think we need to work on skills building, not rushing people into jobs."
In a telephone interview prior to the rally, Jennifer Flynn, the executive director of the New York City AIDS Housing Network who was among those arrested, expressed sadness and frustration over dashed hopes that a new mayoral administration would bring positive change as HASA.
"I felt so duped," she said of being put on what she said amounted to a puppet task force to propose restructuring of HASA while the mayor's office acted entirely on its own.
Having worked in AIDS advocacy since 1995, Flynn said, "This is the worst attack on people with AIDS in New York City that I've ever seen."
Another HASA client, Shirlene Cooper, who also receives rental subsidies, said she feared the worst about how the budget cuts would affect her.
"I'm afraid I'll become homeless and I won't be able to receive my medication and I'll die," she said.
"It's a miracle that I'm standing in front of you right now. But if I stand around and let people like Mayor Bloomberg cut out these services, where will I be? In a box like everybody else."
Police Arrest 30 at AIDS Protest
By KEVIN SPENCE The NY Blade
Police arrested 30 protesters at a planned civil disobedience on the steps of City Hall on May 14, 2003 just before 2 p.m. Police quickly barred the doors to the building just after Charles King, who heads Housing Works, spoke out against Mayor Bloomberg's proposed AIDS budget cuts. Some in the crowd, estimated to be 200 sources, chanted "Bloomberg, billionaire, People with AIDS, he don't care!"
"It's a shame because it would have taken very little effort on behalf of the mayor and the commissioner to fix HASA," said Flynn, the co-director of Housing Works and one of those arrested. "They would have had one hundred percent support of clients, service providers and AIDS advocates to help them fix HASA."
She also criticized the mayor's proposed cuts for AIDS funding: "What seems to be happening is that since the administration has chosen the route of completely dismantling HASA, rather than putting in the effort to fix it, services do seem to be slower and more chaotic than ever."
Other protestors said that even before the imposed cuts were enacted, some AIDS clients were being affected. "Even this week there were people who went to pick up their medication and they couldn't because HASA cancelled their Medicaid cards without notifying them," said Fatima Prioleau, community co-chair of the HIV Planning Commission.
To Laverne Holley, a peer educator with Citywide Harm Reduction and NYCAHW, who is living with AIDS, "rat-trap hotels" and low-quality temporary housing needs to be avoided. Harlem United, the New York City AIDS Housing Network and other organizations joined in the protest. Patrick McGovern, executive director of Harlem United and Eddie Santiago, the director of Syringe Exchange with CHR, were among those arrested.
past actions against Bloomberg's City Hall
MAYOR BLOOMBERG'S CUTS FOR HOUSING
TO FORMERLY HOMELESS PEOPLE LIVING WITH AIDS!
Tuesday, May 14th, City Hall 12 Noon
WANTS TO CLOSE HOUSING
TO FORMERLY HOMELESS PEOPLE LIVING WITH AIDS!
These rallies promise to be lively and exciting!
COMPLETE WITH LIFESIZE CONDOMS AND HOUSES.
Bring your organization's banner, signs, etc. or just bring yourself.
Mayor Bloomberg's "contingency" budget proposes the first cut to an existing AIDS program since before the days of Giuliani!
HE IS CUTTING AIDS HOUSING!
A total of $4.8 million* to existing housing programs that provide permanent, lifesaving housing to formerly homeless people living with HIV/AIDS!
$2.4 MILLION IN CITY TAX LEVY + AN ADDITIONAL
$2.4 MILLION LOSS OF STATE MATCHING FUNDS.
The preliminary budget includes cuts of $4.1 million to AIDS services, including a new rental subsidy program for homeless immigrants living with AIDS.
This is on top of his cut of $5 million for AIDS prevention and services in communities of color!
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO?
Tuesday ~ May 14th
City Hall 12:00 Noon
Press Conference protesting cuts to AIDS
housing and funding for AIDS prevention and services in communities
12:00 pm ~ Steps of City Hall
May 23rd: Protest Cuts to AIDS services, City Hall, Time TBA
Please call Jennifer Flynn, NYC AIDS Housing
Network (917) 517- 5202 or toll free (877) 615-2217 for more information.
Also on Tuesday, May 14th, education advocates from Brooklyn and Staten Island (except District 15) will be engaging in civil disobedience to protest Bloomberg's cuts to education. They are looking for solidarity supporters and there is chance that if a large enough group of AIDS activists wanted to participate, they would include our demands in their signs, press releases, etc. The arrests are "diallo style" where you can expect it to be fairly smooth.
IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN PARTICIPATING, YOU ABSOLUTELY MUST
CALL BILL BATSON AT 917-744-0645 for legal
If you can't do the civil disobedience action on May 14th, but would like to do it another date, there will be actions all week. On May 16th, the People's Agenda, a coalition of community based organizations that formed to fight for a fairer budget that supports the needs of low-income New Yorkers, will be having an arrest "contigent". If you would like to join that contigent as a member of the NYC AIDS Housing Network, please email Sarah Eisenstein at Jews for Racial and Economic Justice <firstname.lastname@example.org> for more information.
Thank you for your support of these events. This budget is pretty bad and we should expect a fierce fight to get adequate money to save lives!
-- Jennifer Flynn, NYC AIDS Housing Network
May 8, 2002
RAUCOUS CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE IN
FRONT OF BLOOMBERG'S CITY HALL
DECLARING "HOTEL CITY HALL" ANOTHER AIDS HALL OF SHAME
A Dozen People Living with AIDS and Their Advocates "Sleep in City Hall" to Protest Mayor Bloomberg's Proposed Cuts to AIDS Congregate Housing and Funding for HIV Prevention and Services in NYC's Communities of Color!
At 2 PM on Wednesday afternoon, a dozen homeless people living with AIDS and their advocates engaged in a civil disobedience in front of Mayor Bloomberg's "bullpen" blowing whistles, chanting and declaring City Hall another "AIDS Hall of Shame."
The group, led by members of Housing Works, ACT UP/NY and other AIDS housing advocacy groups, moved in City Hall and laid down on pillows displaying the logo, "HOTEL CITY HALL". The group then flung a banner down the inside steps of City Hall declaring the site "Another AIDS Hall of Shame!"
Mayor Bloomberg's contingency budget proposes a 10% cut to all existing supportive AIDS permanent and transitional congregate residences. The proposed budget cut includes a direct reduction in City Tax Levy costs of $2.3 million and a secondary loss of State matching funds of an additional $2.3 million.
Combined, this amounts to a staggering loss of $4.6 million for the City's approximately 50 nonprofit run supportive housing programs. In addition, the Mayor's cuts to existing AIDS housing comes on the heels of his previous budget cut of $5 million dollars that would have provided critical HIV/AIDS prevention and services to thousands of NYC's Black, Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander and Native American men, women and children of color.
"At a time when HIV infection rates continue to rise, especially among women, adolescents and young adults, substance users, the homeless, and young gay and bisexual men of color, the Mayor wants to gut an already inadequate budget." said, terri smith-caronia, Director of NYC Public Policy at Housing Works.
New York City, with nearly 44,000 women, men and children living with AIDS, has the largest number of people living with AIDS in this nation. In the year 2000, New York City's communities of color accounted for an astounding 79% of all of the people living with AIDS. Seventy-five percent of the men living with AIDS in this City are men of color. And a heartbreaking 89% of the women living with AIDS are Black, Latina, Asian/Pacific Islander and Native American.
More astounding, on April 26, 2002, the NYS DOH admitted that at least 130,000 New Yorkers are infected with HIV and that 72% live in New York City. Eighty-eight percent (88%) testing HIV+ were people of color, and nearly half of those that tested HIV+ were females.
The groups of activists chanted "Hey Mayor Bloomberg Can't You See, Your Cuts to AIDS Are Killing Me!" and "2-4-6-8 AIDS Housing Can't Wait!"
Day Of Protests At City Hall
By Jessica Kowal and Dan Janison
Newday Staff Writers
May 8, 2002
Eleven AIDS protesters were arrested just outside Mayor Michael Bloomberg's second-floor "bullpen" at City Hall Wednesday as they shouted that Bloomberg's budget cuts would harm people with HIV/AIDS.
The AIDS protesters were among several groups crowding the City Hall area Wednesday to complain about the mayor's proposed budget cuts in programs for senior citizens and health care, summer jobs for young people, and housing.
Several groups planned to speak out on the City Hall steps but were displaced by preparations for the Tribeca Film Festival kickoff Wednesday afternoon.
The AIDS protesters, members of the groups Housing Works and the AIDS Housing Network, were admitted to the second floor for a hearing in the City Council chamber and staged their sit-in after 2 p.m., with one protester loudly blowing a whistle.
Dozens of police officers rushed up the winding steps beneath City Hall's ornate 19th-century rotunda to find protesters in T-shirts proclaiming "AIDS Cuts Kill" sprawled on the marble floor near Bloomberg's office.
They shouted slogans such as "What do we want? AIDS housing!"
Bloomberg was at his desk during the demonstration but did not come to see or listen to the 10-minute protest.
Police placed plastic handcuffs around the demonstrators' wrists and led them downstairs while supporters applauded them.
All 11 were charged at the First Precinct with obstruction of governmental administration, disorderly conduct and criminal trespass, said Det. Kevin Czartoryski, a Police Department spokesman. Protesters who had no outstanding warrants were expected to get desk appearance tickets before being released, he said.
AIDS ACTIVISTS DROP BANNER DEMANDING NEW FUNDING ON EAST SIDE OF STATE CAPITOL
Housing Works AIDS activists fighting for new funding in the under-negotiation state budget dropped a large banner from the east side of the State Capitol at Noon on Wednesday. Four protesters from Housing Works were arrested in the action; they were charged with disorderly conduct and later released.
The protesters chained themselves to a landing and drew attention to their action with air horns, marine whistles and other devices. The action was visible from State Street, downtown Albany and nearby parks, and was covered by Albany television stations, Inside Albany, Associated Press photographers and NY1 News.
The eighteen-foot banner reads "AIDS $$$ NOW!! People of color are dying for housing, services and care."
Activists and legislators have sought $12.5 million in new funding to fight HIV/AIDS in the Black and Latino communities, which are now hardest-hit by the disease.
New statistics released by the state Health Department last month show that 8 out of 10 AIDS cases and new HIV infections in New York hit people of color 9 out 10 in New York City.
Governor Pataki and Senate Majority Leader
Joe Bruno have not yet pledged any action on the funding initiative.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has told AIDS advocates that his
house will contribute at least one-third of the needed funding.
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