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September 25, 2007

Rallying for Housing in NYC

by James Wortman

Hundreds of advocates, activists and people living with HIV/AIDS convened on the steps of New York’s City Hall today to rally for the passage of the HASA for All Act, which, if passed,

Activists gathered Tuesday on the steps of City Hall in lower Manhattan  
would extend housing benefits to homeless or low-income New Yorkers living with the virus whether they are symptomatic or not.

The rally, which brought together clients and staff from organizations such as New York’s Housing Works, Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) and the New York City AIDS Housing Network, preceded a scheduled City Council meeting early this afternoon.

A handful of council members, such as Mathieu Eugene and Letitia James, came out in support of the bill, joining in chants of “Housing, not shelters, ’cuz AIDS won’t wait!” Councilmember Annabel Palma, who introduced the bill on September 6, was also in attendance.

Frederick Taylor, who has been HIV positive since 1982, came to the rally on behalf of his partner, who is also positive but does not receive housing benefits. Taylor says he is frustrated with policymakers who do not provide housing benefits to those living with HIV until they receive an AIDS diagnosis.

“They want people to drop dead first or become deathly ill before they start giving them services, and I don’t think that’s right,” says Taylor, 50. “I hope
Brightly colored signs made bold statements  
that they realize that there are a bunch of people out here that need some assistance, and I really hope they take a good look at the policies that they have in place right now and do some changing. Because the plans that they have now, they’re no good.”

Charles King, President and CEO of Housing Works, said earlier today that one of the main goals of today’s rally was to attract the attention of City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who remains unconvinced that housing is a viable HIV prevention tool, despite a recent Housing and Health study sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that proves otherwise.

“We need for speaker Quinn to hear that the community is behind Palma, we’re behind this bill, and we need her to act,” says King. We also want to convey to [Mayor Michael] Bloomberg that it’s time he took a position on the bill, which he hasn’t done so far.”

After about an hour of uproarious chanting, two oversized letters—one addressed to Quinn, the other to Bloomberg—were carried up the city council steps to leave a lasting impression long after the crowd had dispersed.

Photos by James Wortman

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