Although best known for its pharmaceutical businesses and clinics, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) has pivoted to real estate, providing housing for nearly 1,300 low-income and homeless residents across the country. An investigation by the Los Angeles Times found that AHF placed tenants in squalid conditions and threatened dozens of them with eviction, even as it purports to be an anti-eviction protector of homeless people.
The Times reported: “Roaches and bedbugs infest rooms. Electricity, heating and plumbing systems fail. Elevators malfunction. Code enforcement and public health complaints at foundation buildings are more than three times higher than those owned by other Skid Row nonprofits. Meanwhile, the foundation has evicted tenants over debts of just a few hundred dollars, eviction records show, while suing nearly 70 others for back rent in small claims court.”
The Times article is part of its investigation into the housing providers in LA’s Skid Row. AHF brings in over $2 billion annually, mostly from its pharmaceutical business, the Times reports, and over the past six years, it has expanded into the housing business, purchasing over a dozen buildings in Los Angeles, most of them single-room occupancy hotels.
In response to the Times’s investigation, AHF’s general counsel, Tom Myers, countered that the foundation renovated the apartment buildings and increased occupancy by over 200%, which translates to about 1,000 formerly homeless residents.
“The perfect cannot be the enemy of the good,” Myers told the Times. “Six people die on the streets of Los Angeles every day.”
Unlike nonprofit landlords that receive government funding, AHF doesn’t offer its residents supportive services, such as counseling, even though they are often dealing with addiction, mental health issues and disabilities. AHF has maintained that not providing these services allows it to buy more properties.
One resident told the Times that his mental health deteriorated once he moved into AHF housing at the Baltimore Hotel, where he encountered plumbing failures, vermin and violence.
Meanwhile, AHF advocates that housing is a human right and has spent $63 million on ballot measures in California to expand rent control.
On its website, AIDSHealth.org, AHF describes itself a Los Angeles–based global nonprofit “providing cutting-edge medicine and advocacy to over 1,900,000 people in 45 countries. We are currently the largest provider of HIV/AIDS medical care in the world. AHF funds its mission to rid the world of AIDS through a network of pharmacies, thrift stores, health care contracts and other strategic partnerships. Generating new, innovative ways of treatment, prevention and advocacy has been the hallmark of our success.”