Yesterday, on the 25th anniversary of AIDS, many gathered to rally in front of City Hall to prevent evictions of persons living with HIV/AIDS and other tragic illnesses. The AIDS Housing Alliance organized the rally to sway Mayor Newsom and the Board of Supervisors to establish a comprehensive AIDS housing plan.
Many living with AIDS have already been evicted from their home because of the Ellis Act, which the AIDS Housing Alliance wants to see repealed. In five years there have been 1,000 Ellis Act evictions and 1,800 AIDS deaths. Now, the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resource Emergency (CARE) Act will soon impose a time limit of 24 months that a person may receive help.
For Mark A. Overbay, who has been living with AIDS for 16 years, loosing government aid is unthinkable because he cannot physically work. Overbay's rent is $1150, of which $950 is covered through government assistance.
“I will have two years to worry,” said Overbay. “Excluding the costs of my medication and rent I live on $344 a month, I cannot afford to pay more for rent.”
The AIDS Housing Alliance wants San Francisco to restore cutbacks that have already been made and will be made to the CARE program. They want a comprehensive AIDS housing plan and the city to be accountable. And, they strongly want the Ellis Act repealed.
Supervisor Tom Ammiano spoke to show his support and voice his disappointment in the Bush administration.
“I know this is just about economics, but that is no excuse,” said Ammiano of the cutbacks. “We need to stop cutting up an old pie that’s failing and start with a new pie.”
A representative from Supervisor Bevan Dufty’s office showed his support for this issue, and reaffirmed that new legislation sponsored by Supervisors Dufty and Ammiano will be introduced to the board later this week.
Miss Anita Fixx said that she believes this issue is simply not getting the attention it deserves, especially in a city that has become known to many as the AIDS eviction capital of the world.
“This is not discussed by politicians,” said Fixx. “People in our own community don’t even know what is going on.”
Brian Basinger, Director of AIDS Housing Alliance, said that this disabled community is being treated as if they don’t count.
“There’s been a total media blackout,” said Basinger. “This community is slowly disappearing because we’re not seen and we’re not heard.”
People living with HIV/AIDS who are evicted from their homes are dying at five times the rate of those who live in their homes. Basinger said the fact that the majority of evictions are occurring in District 8, the Castro, speaks for itself.
“Gay men are those most underserved when it comes to housing, and we can’t qualify from services that we started,” said Basinger.
Basinger said that gay men are in need because in order to get housing assistance one must be a drug-user. Although he understands that drug-users need to get off the streets, persons living with HIV/AIDS can quickly end up in the streets or in an SRO.
“This is a poverty issue,” said Basinger. “We don’t have any money, they evict us, we disappear and then we die. Nobody seems to be talking about this issue accurately.”
San Francisco has 461 households with HIV/AIDS that are dependent on this housing assistance. Housing is the leading unfulfilled need of people living with AIDS in San Francisco. Roughly 20,000 people in the city are diagnosed with HIV and 13,000 of this population have disabling HIV/AIDS.