For the February 6th unveiling of President George W. Bush’s 2007 federal budget, advocates at Housing Opportunities for People With AIDS (HOPWA), part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, penned a press release denouncing what they expected would be another year of funding cuts. Approximately 50% of people with HIV need help finding and paying for housing, and more than 70,000 currently rely on HOPWA. The White House indeed shocked the agency—by proposing a $14 million raise. The Office of Management and Budget, which evaluates government-funded programs for cost effectiveness, gave HOPWA an “outstanding” score in 2003 after reviewing evidence that housing helps clients avoid hospitalization. “We’ve worked for years to provide the administration with solid data showing that people in stable housing have better access to care and better health,” says David Voss, director of the Office of HIV/AIDS Housing at HOPWA. Ronald Stall, PhD, a former researcher at the Centers for Disease Control who coauthored a 2004 study linking housing to a reduction in such high-risk activities as prostitution and drug use, says, “Providing housing is not only the right thing to do, it may save taxpayers a lot of money [in public-assistance expenditures]. Changing the conditions people live in gets results.”
However, the new budget also cuts funds for other key housing assistance programs. “We need much more,” says Nancy Bernstine, executive director of the National AIDS Housing Coalition. The proposal would slice Section 811 housing for the disabled in half and reduce grants to help communities provide homes by 20%, meaning that more people with HIV will have to turn to HOPWA. On March 16, a bipartisan letter signed by 107 congresspeople demanded a $124 million increase to HOPWA’s $300 million annual budget. The Senate issued a similar letter in April. As POZ went to press, Congress was expected to vote on the budget in May. But David Voss is counting on the $14 million. “It means we get to serve up to 3,500 additional households,” he says. A groundbreaking development.
For info on HOPWA and housing aid, visit the National AIDS Housing Coalition at www.nationalaidshousing.org or call 202.347.0333.