HUD grants to help with housing for those with AIDS

President Barack Obama

HOPWA program will administer $9.1 million in competitive grants to develop, improve housing options

DANA RUDOLPH  |  Keen News Service
lisakeen@mac.com

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on Monday, May 23 announced up to $9.1 million in grants to address the housing needs of people with low-incomes living with HIV/AIDS.

The competitive grants, offered through the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS Program, are intended for states and local communities to create more integrated strategies and partnerships between housing programs and other health and human services.

David Vos, director of HUD’s Office of HIV/AIDS Housing, said in a statement on the HUD website that the partnerships will help show “how to take holistic approaches to serving some of the nation’s most vulnerable, persons living with chronic health challenges and risks of homelessness.”

At the end of the three-year grants, HUD will evaluate and publish the results of grantees’ efforts in an Integrated HIV/AIDS Housing Plan. The IHHP will be an online resource to help communities “integrate the delivery of housing along with medical and other supportive services,” said Vos.

The grants and IHHP are intended to support both President Obama’s National HIV/AIDS Strategy and his Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness.

President Obama released a National HIV/AIDS Strategy in July 2010 with specific, measurable targets to be achieved by 2015. One of the strategy’s goals is to help people living with HIV “who have challenges meeting their basic needs, such as housing.”

The strategy says that “non-medical supportive services, such as housing, food, and transportation, are “critical elements of an effective HIV care system.”

The strategy calls for increasing from 434,000 to 455,800 the number of people receiving HIV-related services under the Ryan White Care Act who have permanent housing. The Ryan White Program, the largest federally funded program for people with AIDS, provides services for those who do not have sufficient health care coverage or financial resources.

According to the strategy, “Individuals living with HIV who lack stable housing are more likely to delay HIV care, have poorer access to regular care, are less likely to receive optimal antiretroviral therapy, and are less likely to adhere to therapy.”

One 12-year study of people living with HIV in New York City, cited in the strategy, found that “housing assistance had a direct impact on improved medical care, regardless of demographics, drug use, health and mental health status, or receipt of other services.”

But HUD’s announcement comes only weeks after the U.S. House passed a budget for Fiscal Year 2012 that AIDS activists believe will diminish HIV programs and services.

The proposed budget, authored chiefly by Rep. Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, calls for dramatic cuts in Medicaid, which provides health insurance coverage for people with low incomes.

And it calls for dramatic cuts in Medicare, which provides health insurance coverage for Americans 65 and older and for people with disabilities, including AIDS.

In a letter to members of the House in April, a large coalition of groups serving people with HIV had urged a “no” vote on the plan, saying it “will do irreparable harm to people living with HIV disease as well as those at risk for HIV infection.”

In addition to addressing the housing needs of people living with AIDS, HUD has also taken several significant steps towards addressing housing discrimination in the LGBT community.

It has issued proposed new regulations intended to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in its core housing programs.

It also clarified that, although the Fair Housing Act — a pivotal civil rights act that prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability and familial status, does not specifically cover sexual orientation- or gender identity-based discrimination, it may still provide them with protection in other ways.

For example, discrimination against a gay man because of fear he will spread HIV/AIDS may constitute illegal discrimination on the basis of a perceived disability, HIV/AIDS.
HUD has also instructed staff to inform individuals about state and local LGBT protections that may apply to them. And HUD has told all its grant applicants they must comply with such laws, where they exist.

Applications for the new grants should be submitted at grants.gov by Aug. 2. Winners are expected to be announced by Sept. 20.

© 2011 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

—  John Wright

DFW’s homeless gays heading north to Denton, advocate says

HUD housing intervention counselor Michael Raven says what has traditionally been considered an urban issue is growing in rural areas

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Michael Raven

HUD housing intervention counselor Michael C. Raven, says he has seen an increase in the number clients who are gay and homeless moving into Denton.

Raven serves as secretary for HOPE, Inc., which provides financial assistance and case management to families who are homeless or at-risk of being homeless and seeking to secure permanent housing.

Before coming to HOPE, which is non-faith-based, Raven worked for the Salvation Army.

Rven said that compared to Dallas, homeless numbers in Denton are low. The latest count is 103 people in the city of Denton and 547 in the county. Homelessness is more of a rural problem in Denton County, he said, and many of the county’s homeless live in tents in the woods.

Raven, who is himself gay, said the biggest problem he has seen with gay homelessness in Denton County is that the Salvation Army provides Denton’s only shelter — and that organization does not welcome gays or lesbians.

“It takes awhile to get someone off the street and into affordable housing,” Raven said. “We give them three years to graduate into self-sufficiency.”

Raven follows everyone who contacts his office.

“With housing counseling, we hope they’ll have a surplus each month,” he said.

The goal is to get them into transitional housing and then something permanent.

Among the many reasons for homelessness are mental health issues, drug and alcohol abuse and family violence. But unemployment is the top reason for homelessness currently in Denton.

Of those who reported a cause, 20 percent said loss of a job and another 15 percent were “unable to pay rent or mortgage,” mostly related to employment issues.

Not everyone who is homeless was without work, Raven said, but some may be working at a much lower-paying job or only finding part-time work.

Raven said he has notes about available jobs all over his office and is constantly checking a number of sources. If he knows a client has a particular skill, he tries to make the connection.

But he said employers are terrible about taking advantage of the homeless.

Raven cited one case of a client with a degree in accounting. A retail store didn’t have an accounting position open, but hired her as a cashier and taught her the accounting process for their business at the same time. After four months, she was doing most of the store’s accounting work but was still being paid as a cashier.

A major retailer hired another of his clients. When they found out that she had a degree, which required a higher salary by their own company rules, they fired her, Raven said.

Once every two years, Denton counts its homeless population. Raven is part of that counting process, which will start after the New Year.

He said he doesn’t like to just show up and take census figures, so he asks his HOPE donors for personal care items and blankets to distribute on counting night.

While usually associated with urban areas, Raven said homelessness is increasing in rural areas.

During the recession, he’s noticed that everyone’s watching their money. But he thinks that people are just being more prudent because homelessness could happen to anyone.

Contact HOPE at 940-380-0513.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 10, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Losing his home — and his health

Dallas man with HIV says housing stability helped him stay healthy. But late HOPWA payments led to his eviction, and a rising viral load

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

FIGHTING FOR HEALTH AND HOUSING | Since he received notice that he was being evicted because HOPWA payments covering his rent were late, Dustin Mattlage’s CD4 count has dropped 200 points. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

“Housing stability has kept me out of the hospital,” said Dustin Mattlage, who has lived with HIV for 17 years.

But now, problems with the federal program that has helped give him stable housing is having a negative impact on his health.

In 2005, Mattlage began receiving assistance through Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS, a federal program better known as HOPWA. The program he relies on to keep a roof over his head is administered by the city, and Dallas consistently pays landlords late.

Mattlage said a recent 200-point drop in his CD4 count was caused by the stress of a current eviction demonstrates the importance of stable housing for people living with AIDS.

Don Maison, president and CEO of AIDS Services Dallas, agrees.

“I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen who have been told by their doctors they had weeks to live,” Maison said. “One guy moved into Ewing on May 1, 1996. He is thriving.”

People living with AIDS in stable housing have an 80 percent reduction in mortality, Maison said one study showed. Another study indicated the death rate is seven to nine times higher among people with AIDS who are homeless.

HOPWA supports a number of programs, including acquisition and rehabilitation of housing units, that have benefited ASD.

Other programs provide rental assistance and prevent homelessness, targeting individuals who are not in housing like ASD or Villages at Samaritan House in Fort Worth. In Dallas, the city and county run two of those programs.

The city provides temporary, emergency assistance. A person with HIV can apply for that help and Dallas will pay rent for up to five months a year. Fort Worth runs a similar program.

A county program that receives HOPWA funding provides permanent assistance.

According to a HUD study released earlier this year, renting apartments is cheaper than placing people in homeless shelters, even before the cost of extra services such as more emergency room visits is added.

Mattlage said that if he were homeless, he’d have no way to refrigerate the medication that has kept him out of Parkland.

With a stable home, Mattlage said, rather than worrying about where he was going to spend the night, he re-entered the workforce.

Before moving into the Bailiwick, an apartment complex in Oak Lawn, Mattlage made sure the complex accepted HOPWA payments without late fees. He lost a previous apartment because even though HOPWA emergency funds covered his rent when he was sick, late charges he couldn’t cover mounted to more than $1,000.

While payments from the city-managed program are reliable, they are also consistently late.

To receive payments from the city, a landlord signs up as a vendor on the City Hall website. They also sign a payment agreement and check off “Yes, I am willing to wait for payment. (By checking this box, I agree to wait 6-8 weeks for payment to be processed. I also agree that late charges will cease upon the date of this agreement).”

Earlier this year, Kevin Forhan purchased the Bailiwick.

Forhan said he could not comment for the story because of ongoing litigation with Mattlage but would talk to Dallas Voice after that pending case is resolved.

Unrelated to Mattlage, he made one comment about the program.

“I think the bureaucracy makes it difficult for a small business to deal with it,” he said.

The pending litigation he referred to began in May.

On May 19, Mattlage received a notice of rental arrears. On June 16, he was served with an eviction notice with a June 21 court date.

While presiding Justice of the Peace Luis Sepulveda sympathized with Mattlage, he found no grounds for refusing the eviction. Mattlage did receive a stay, however, by filing an immediate appeal on grounds of housing discrimination based on disability. HUD referred the complaint to the city’s Fair Housing Office.

The court date for the appeal was July 22. Although he expected to lose, that delay gave Mattlage a month, rather than five business days, to find a new place to live and move.

He is now on permanent housing assistance in the HOPWA program managed by the county. Once Mattlage found his new apartment, the county scheduled an inspection to make sure the new apartment meets certain minimum standards and safety requirements. They also checked that the apartment is the size allowed and not a larger apartment that the client could sublet to a roommate for profit.

As expected, Mattlage lost his appeal on June 22, but was given an extra week for the county to approve the new residence and move.

Mattlage said receiving HOPWA emergency assistance is easy: To get temporary help from the city, bring a rental arrears notice, a copy of the lease and a current letter of diagnosis. “They want to know you’re currently getting treatment,” he said.

Mattlage said he found a lot of AIDS-related discrimination in housing in Oak Lawn.

While calling apartment complexes, he asked if they accepted Section 8 housing vouchers, a HUD program that subsidizes shelter for low-income individuals and families.
If they said they would, he asked if they accepted HOPWA. Most of those Oak Lawn properties that took Section 8 said they would not accept HOPWA.

Mattlage praised the HOPWA programs and said the city emergency help was easy to access. Getting an appointment with the county took more persistence. But both require some legwork.

“You have to be proactive,” he said.

City officials did not return calls seeking comment.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 23, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

Homelessness and LGBT youth

The figures are staggering. Between 1.6 million to 2.8 million homeless youth in our country! More staggering still is the data that shows up to 40 percent of those homeless are LGBT youth.

For some reason I never considered homelessness as an LGBT issue but the figures speak clearly, it is. The reasons for these kids ending up on the street are myriad, but they share some disturbing similarities.

A report from the Center for American Progress shows 58 percent of them are victims of sexual assault. This is much higher than their straight counterparts. Additionally, 62 percent suffer discrimination from their families because of their sexual orientation. I would imagine that is a big cause of the problem.

The report is eye-opening and worth your time to read. Beyond understanding the problem is doing something about it. That will take both our community and our local state and federal governments getting involved and working to change this.

— Hardy Haberman, Dungeon Diary

—  Dallasvoice