Dispatches from the fight against homelessness and AIDS
Posted by Kenyon Farrow , February 29, 2012
VOCAL-NY & Housing Works Activists Follow HRA Commish Doar to Work (photo courtesy of Sam G. Lewis)
More than fifty people living with HIV/AIDS and their allies held a raucous protest this morning to “wake up” Robert Doar, the Commissioner of the NYC Human Resources Administration (HRA), to the city’s HIV/AIDS crisis. Blaring noisemakers and alarm clocks outside his row house on a wealthy block in Brooklyn Heights, activists then followed Doar from his doorstep to the Clark St. subway station and rode with him to his office in Lower Manhattan.
During Doar’s commute on the subway, he was confronted by clients of the HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA), a division of HRA, who are directly affected by recent policy changes and proposed budget cuts that will increase homelessness. A recently leaked memo about an internal agency reorganization has also raised concerns that people living with HIV/AIDS could be forced into unpaid welfare-to-work programs.
“If Commissioner Doar’s plans for HASA clients are really going to help us, why he is he keeping us in the dark and being so secretive?” said Wanda Hernandez, a HASA client from the Bronx and VOCAL-NY’s Board chair. “Commissioner Doar’s right when he says the AIDS epidemic has changed, but he seems to have his head in the sand about what that means. Now that people like me are the face of AIDS, it feels like Doar is willing to destroy a safety net that was put into place at a time when HIV/AIDS wasn’t associated with poverty and people of color.”
Activists are calling for restoration of $10 million in cuts to HIV/AIDS housing and nutrition programs that Mayor Bloomberg wants to cut in next year’s budget, changes to a new drug screening policy that could deny housing assistance to homeless people living with HIV/AIDS suspected of drug use, and a 30% rent cap affordable housing protection that would prevent homelessness for more than 10,000 HASA clients with a severe rent share burden and enable an additional 1,000 clients to move out of the shelter system.
“This new re-structuring is just one of several major shifts at HASA that have been done under the cloak of night in recent months—meanwhile, people with HIV who need critical services are left to fend for themselves,” says Charles King, CEO of Housing Works. “We demand Doar come out of his plush surroundings and justify these policies to the poor people with AIDS who he pretends to serve.”
Following the wake-up protest, activists traveled to lower Manhattan to try confronting Commissioner Doar at HRA’s headquarters about the secretive policy changes and agency reorganization.
A City Council General Welfare Committee hearing on February 8th increased public scrutiny of these policy changes and foreshadowed criticism Doar is likely to encounter during upcoming City Council budget hearings in March.
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