January #55 : Homesick Blues - by Denny Lee

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Table of Contents

Work 2000

Take This Job & Love it!

POZ Work

Editor's Letter

Mailbox

Glaxo Makes a Deal

For Whom the Nobel Tolls

Homesick Blues

NEG/POZ

"Dutch" Treat

Eye of the Beholder

Shout Out

LA Women

Missing Persons Report

Catching Up With Michael Johnston

Milestones

Oink, Oink

A Define Mess

Do Ask, Do Tell

Primary Colors

A Modest Proposal

Portrait of the Artist as a Sex Bomb

Play It As It Lays

Beginner's Luck

Follow Your Heart

Next Up...The lowdown on what’s inside the pipeline

Stool's Gold

Comfort Zone

Wart's Up, Nurse?

Herb of the Month

Cancer Answers

Watch Your Hep

Boys' Night Out



Most Popular Lessons

The HIV Life Cycle

Shingles

Herpes Simplex Virus

Syphilis & Neurosyphilis

Treatments for Opportunistic Infections (OIs)

What is AIDS & HIV?

Hepatitis & HIV


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January 2000

Homesick Blues

by Denny Lee

In his room at Chelsea’s Allerton Hotel, which doubles as a New York City residence for homeless people with HIV, Zonell Wright never had a refrigerator for storing his perishable meds. But that was the least of it. If he killed one roach, Wright said, scores would emerge to consume the dead one. Mice burrowed into the urine-stained mattress, and crack vials littered the hallway. “The Allerton was disgusting and dangerous,” said Wright, a 42-year-old African American. “My health would have been in jeopardy if I’d stayed.” He moved to the Central Queens YMCA and, in late September, joined a class-action suit—filed on behalf of the city’s homeless with HIV by the advocacy group Housing Works—charging the city with putting PWAs in conditions “unfit for human habitation.”

The suit argues that the city, which places 2,000 HIVers a month in nearly 50 low-rent hotels, is violating a 1997 local law, as well as the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. It is the nation’s first case to stake an ADA housing claim for PWAs, according to Armen Merjian, a senior staff attorney for Housing Works. If the argument succeeds—a preliminary hearing was scheduled for late 1999—Merjian said, the country’s disabled “will be able to seize upon this case to demand a bare minimum of medically appropriate housing under the ADA.” In fact, the National Coalition for the Homeless estimates that at some point in their lives nearly 50 percent of Americans with HIV are expected to need such housing assistance as supplemental income and rental subsidies.

To buttress its claims, Housing Works conducted a survey that found “appallingly filthy and unsanitary” rooms and bathrooms, lack of refrigerators in a third of the units, as well as loan sharking by hotel staff, drug dealing and prostitution. Two earlier reports reached similar conclusions, one of which was headed by the National Development and Research Institute, a nonpartisan outfit commissioned by New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Allerton staffers declined to be interviewed, but the Central Queens YMCA, where Wright now lives, disputed the suit’s charges. “I treat this like my house,” said Rachel Gordon, its senior residence director. She admitted, however, that this “house” does not provide refrigerators for meds. For now, Wright remains there but has said that situation could change “tomorrow.”

Jason A. Turner, commissioner of the city’s Human Resources Administration, which oversees the housing program, issued a statement saying that “these concerns have been taken seriously.” But just two weeks after the suit was filed, his office announced that it was reducing the number of caseworkers, despite repeated charges that homeless PWAs rarely get to see them as required under city law.

In a related story, New York state’s highest court ruled unanimously in October that the Giuliani administration used its Eligibility Verification Review to create illegal obstacles for people with HIV seeking public assistance by requiring them to undergo repeated background checks.  








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