AIDS Housing Alliance / San Francisco

slideshow2.jpg

Services

We have developed a comprehensive suite of housing services that are available to all people with HIV/AIDS and their households in San Francisco without restriction due to disability, income, immigration or any other status.  To prevent the spread of HIV, we are seeking funding to expand services targeting HIV negative gay men, especially youth, and transgender women.

Our Clinic: People seeking services must attend our Drop In Clinic on either Monday or Tuesday from 1pm to 5pm. Our services are first-come, first-served, so people tend to line up early. Sign in starts at 12:00 and ends at 1:00.  Doors open at 12:30 PM. No one will be admitted who has not signed in by 1:00. Bring ID, letter of diagnosis, and proof of income – if you have them.  Also: bring a magazine, a book, knitting, crochet, or that outfit you have been meaning to sew, because it can take all afternoon to be seen.

Housing Referrals: Access to information on available housing opportunities – especially those available to disabled folks existing on less than $1000 per month, is a major barrier to housing stability for people with HIV/AIDS in San Francisco. There are also cognitive, linguistic, and educational barriers for some people that inhibit the ability to accurately complete complicated affordable housing applications.  As disabled people with HIV/AIDS, we went thru this in our own housing search and are bringing back what we have collectively learned to share this information with our community.

The fear of stigma and discrimination based on HIV status is alive and well, even in San Francisco. HIV discrimination is the largest area of investigation with the San Francisco Human Rights Commission.  Many of us are seeking a living environment where we don’t need to be concerned about disclosing our HIV status to the building owner or manager. Many of us are also seeking the therapeutic benefit of living in environments where the majority of others share our experience as people with HIV/AIDS.

Back Rent Assistance:  It is always preferable to prevent homelessness in the first place. Unfortunately, many of us are losing our housing when we lose our jobs due to the economy or illness. AIDS Housing Alliance/SF has developed a complimentary suite of financial services that can help preserve the housing of our members who are experiencing a temporary economic emergency. Because we do not require a member to be disabled in order to receive services, we are the only source of emergency financial assistance for those of us who are still working and at risk of losing our housing.

Move-In Deposits and First Month’s Rent: Coming up with move-in costs are difficult for most of us in San Francisco – the 2nd most expensive housing market in the country. This is especially difficult for people living on a fixed income, especially those who have had to spend all of their income on SRO hotels without access to kitchen facilities.  AIDS Housing Alliance/SF has developed a unique zero-interest loan program that provides the dignity of a hand up, instead of a handout. Because us disabled folks are likely to remain poor for the rest of our lives, we have developed an ‘evergreen’ program that people who pay back their loans can continue to access as long as they are in need. Wrap-around money management and financial literacy education is available to loan program participants.

Rent Subsidies: Sometimes people need a little more time to get back on their feet. AHA RENTS is a shallow rent subsidy program for people who are at imminent risk of homelessness due to a sudden, catastrophic loss of income – such as getting laid off.  Recipients are required to participate in an approved job training program or be working between 15 – 25 hours per week to qualify.

Supportive Employment: Many disabled people with HIV/AIDS want to work but are unable to find suitable employment that fits within the earned income restrictions of disability programs. Working full-time and competing with able-bodied people for jobs is not always appropriate. We are stuck in an either/or world of not working at all or being set up for failure by attempting full-time jobs that were never designed with us in mind.  Disabled people with AIDS are creating demand for fulfilling careers at 15+ hours per week that the market is not creating. These types of niches – where there is a breakdown of the market --  is an excellent role for the nonprofit community to fill. AIDS Housing Alliance/SF has stepped into this void by specializing in creating fulfilling and life-affirming career opportunities for disabled people with HIV/AIDS that does not put our access to disability programs, like medical care, at risk.  In addition to job opportunities at our offices, we operate AHA Café as a job training and supportive employment site for our community. One third of our agency income is derived from these entrepreneurial activities.

Tenant's Rights Counseling: It is much better to protect the housing people already have, than to try to find replacement housing. Especially when people have become disabled and do not have the income to qualify for replacement housing. We provide counseling on tenant's rights under San Francisco's rent control laws. We also educate people on their responsibilities so that people do not unknowingly make themselves vulnerable due to lack of knowledge.

Public Policy Advocacy: As the only agency founded, staffed and led by disabled people with HIV/AIDS, it is our responsibility to be the authentic voice of people with HIV/AIDS in San Francisco.  We have built an organization that is not vulnerable to the undue influence of money in our decision-making and advocacy on behalf of our community.

Our public policy achievements include creating and passing the No Fast Pass to Eviction legislation that adjusted the financial incentives that existed for real estate speculators to target seniors, people with HIV/AIDS and the disabled for Ellis Act evictions. Our protest at City Hall over the loss of one-third of  our AIDS housing in just 3 years led to the creation of $1 million in new HIV/AIDS housing funding in San Francisco's budget. As part of our vision of building a culture of movement building vs. empire building, we directed 100% of those funds to our sister agencies: AIDS Emergency Fund, San Francisco AIDS Foundation, and Catholic Charities.  Additionally, we helped achieve legislation to prevent landlords from evicting domestic partners and family members who move in together and worked with Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi to get funding from the Mayor's Office of Housing to make the first LGBT senior housing move from 100% market rate housing to 100% affordable.

AIDS Housing Alliance/SF instigated the creation of a special focus on housing and was invited to the White House to participate in those discussions as part of the first even National AIDS Strategy and is currently working on creating an LGBT focused shelter in San Francisco.