On Valentine’s Day, AIDS Healthcare Foundation opened its first transitional housing project for houseless and low-income individuals, with priority for those with chronic health conditions. Through its new program Healthy Housing Foundation, AHF will provide 220 single-occupancy rooms at the repurposed Madison Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.
AHF also unveiled a new advocacy campaign, featuring “homeless” billboards across L.A. and the site LAScandal.org. It seeks a more urgent response to the city’s worsening homeless crisis from L.A. politicians. In 2015, the L.A. City Council declared a homeless “state of emergency,” and voters passed an affordable and homeless housing ballot measure, HHH, in 2016, but not one unit for the homeless has been built.
In 2017, Los Angeles saw a staggering 20 percent increase in its homeless population — just over 34,000 men, women, and children.
“Los Angeles is a place that believes in dignity,” said AHF President and Co-Founder Michael Weinstein at the opening ceremony, “yet we have too many homeless.”
Weinstein expects AHF, the world’s largest HIV/AIDS medical-care provider, to create thousands of affordable and supportive homeless housing units in the years to come. Healthy Housing Foundation by AHF will soon offer more transitional housing at a repurposed motel on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood.
“We wouldn’t have needed to do this if the city had done what it needed to do,” said Weinstein.
Samantha Granberry, Vice President of Housing Services for Healthy Housing Foundation by AHF, added, “We are here now — to house you.”
For addressing the housing affordability and homeless crises, AHF carries out a multi-pronged, community-based approach known as the “3 Ps”:
- Protect tenants: prevent gentrification and homelessness by keeping rents under control and discouraging evictions;
- Preserve communities: support progressive, sustainable land-use policies that maintain neighborhood integrity and allow working- and middle-class families to stay in their communities;
- Produce housing: Produce truly affordable housing through adaptive reuse and cost-effective new construction.
In 1987, AHF was founded as a housing provider for terminally ill AIDS patients in L.A. HIV drug treatment did not exist, and people living with HIV/AIDS were evicted by landlords and treated as lepers at hospitals. It was an emergency that demanded an immediate response. AHF opened the 25-bed Chris Brownlie Hospice at the Barlow Respiratory Hospital in L.A.’s Echo Park neighborhood, and subsequently operated two additional hospices, in South L.A. and West Hollywood.
“We’ve come full circle,” Weinstein said at the ceremony.
Another project by AHF, Housing Is A Human Right, is also playing a key role in the statewide, grassroots effort to repeal Costa-Hawkins, the anti-rent control law. It handcuffs local officials from creating strong rent control policies to deal with California’s sky-rocketing rents and affordable-housing crisis, which are contributing to homeless crises in L.A. and throughout the state.
Block after block on Skid Row in downtown L.A., where the Madison Hotel is located, homeless men and women live in tents on the sidewalk. The situation is so dire and shocking that two United Nations officials have toured the area in recent weeks.
Denise Weathers, Senior Director of Housing Services for Healthy Housing Foundation by AHF, said, “Housing is a human right. This is beyond an emergency. This is beyond a crisis. This is unacceptable.”
AHF considers L.A.’s homeless crisis to be a public-health emergency, in which people are literally dying on the street and struggling to maintain good health.
“We can’t truly be healthy,” said Madison Hotel tenant Tommy Butts, “without living in a healthy environment.”
Healthy Housing Foundation by AHF, he said, is giving him that.