San Francisco HIVer Brian Basinger, 38, knew his Sustiva combo couldinduce some odd dreams, but nothing prepared him for a late-night housecall from God. “You must organize housing for people with HIV,” theAlmighty boomed in 2004. And so it came to pass that less than sixweeks later, Basinger, a former marketing manager, and his positivepartner, James Nykolay, 39, had put their disability checks towardstarting  AIDS Housing Alliance/San Francisco (AHA/SF). Peoplelined up—and today he has helped hundreds find homes.

“Housingis the number one unmet need of San Francisco HIVers,” Basinger says.Stable housing promotes treatment adherence and good health and alsoreduces risky behavior, but medical bills, disability and job lossspark evictions and homelessness. San Francisco’s skyrocketing housingprices coupled with cuts in federal AIDS housing, have fomented acrisis. “Why would a landlord rent to us when they can rent to someonewith a full-time job and good credit?” Basinger says. A condoconversion ousted him from his home of 14 years, forcing him to spendfive months searching for someone who would accept a Section 8 housingvoucher.

Basinger insists that for a little over $4 millionSan Francisco could demolish its affordable-housing shortage. “Theissue isn’t resources. We need a paradigm shift,” says Basinger. Hebelieves traditional AIDS-housing providers should promote clients’self-sufficiency rather than simply carve up the scant federal dollarsfrom Housing Opportunities for People With AIDS (HOPWA). AHA/SF does itall, from helping with applications to teaching tenants’ rights andfinancial wellness. Patricia, 54, lived with her husband in asingle-room-occupancy hotel without a kitchen or bathroom for yearsbefore discovering AHA/SF and her eligibility for a new studioapartment. “It’s paradise,” she says.

The housing squeeze hasgone national. In New York City, 3,600 people with AIDS land inemergency housing every night—often filthy, run-down hotels unsuitablefor people with chronic illness. Due to lack of housing, many remain inthe emergency spaces for years, says Jennifer Flynn, directorof the NewYork City AIDS Housing Network (NYCAHN). The crisis also extends beyondhigh-rent capitals. Nancy Bernstine, executive director of the NationalAIDS Housing Coalition, says many cities have just run out ofaffordable rooms, canceling their HOPWA waiting lists entirely. In2003, 80% of the people requesting HOPWA assistance in Connecticut weredenied, and Colorado has closed HOPWA waiting lists statewide.

Advocatesare making progress. Thanks to a law that NYCAHN helped pass, sinceAugust, every positive homeless person in New York City must bereferred to permanent housing within 90 days of entering the housingsystem. In 2004, AHA/SF and Basinger created and helped passlegislation prohibiting San Francisco landlords who evict HIVers fromquickly converting properties into condos. And he plans to keeprenovating the affordable-housing system, one brick at a time. “I hopepeople will implement our model in their hometown,” he says. 

Housing Resources

For  help finding a home, check out:

AIDS Housing Alliance

National AIDS Housing Coalition

New York City AIDS Housing Network

U.S. Office of HIV/AIDS Housing
202.708.1112 housing/local/ index.cfm