Responding to a silent protest that greeted her at the National HIV/AIDS Strategy Community Discussion on Friday, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn appeared to be more receptive than she’s been in the last two years to supporting HASA for All.
“There are things we’ve had to say no for because we don’t have federal funds,” Quinn said in her remarks at the forum held at Columbia University. She was referring to signs some audience members held up that read “Bloomberg & Quinn REFUSE to house HIV+ New Yorkers & our community is getting sicker. Our President MUST provide housing and services for all poor people living with HIV.”
HASA for All would expand AIDS housing benefits to all poor New Yorkers living with HIV who need them. While Quinn has frequently stated her opposition to HASA for All, this is the first time she has stated that she would be open to the program if more funding were available.
After her remarks, Quinn spoke to the Update specifically about HASA for All, saying, “We would like to be able to do more for housing people with HIV. I’ve always been hesitant to expand housing without knowing if we can sustain the program for at least five years without federal dollars. If we had federal dollars we would be able to use that for housing and services, definitely.” The HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA) is currently funded entirely by city and state dollars.
Advocates were skeptical of Quinn’s latest response.
“This seems a convenient response considering the current fiscal situation we are in,” said Kristin Goodwin, Housing Works New York City Director of Policy and Organizing. “I see her point, but it still doesn’t negate the fact that the city forces people to become dangerously ill before they have housing. But two years ago, that was not the reason she gave. The overall cost of people getting sick far exceeds the cost of expanding HASA benefits.”
In January 2008, before the global economic crisis, Quinn said, “I do not believe the HASA for All initiative is the best way to support HIV-positive homeless individuals or prevent the spread of this disease. Further, I am concerned this bill could set a wide-ranging precedent that would require additional costly benefits, diverting limited resources to an unnecessary mandate instead of allowing us to target funds where they are most needed.”
In meetings with Housing Works, Gay Men’s Health Crisis and New York City AIDS Housing Network in fall 2007 Quinn said she didn’t want to set a precedent where the city had to house people with other cancer, diabetes and other chronic diseases. She also told advocates at these meetings that she “wasn’t convinced” housing people with HIV was a prevention tool.
AIDS advocates saw this stance as a betrayal by Quinn, who before becoming Speaker was a longtime advocates of housing for people with HIV and AIDS.blog comments powered by Disqus