AIDS Homeless Crisis Rages In LA As HOPWA $17+ Millions Go

Tom Boland (
Thu, 13 May 1999 19:17:14 -0700 (PDT)
FWD  AIDS Healthcare Foundation - Press Release - April 30, 1999

AIDS Healthcare Foundation Claims City Controller Confirms Gross
Mismanagement of L.A. AIDS Housing Program Funds: Millions Go Unspent as
AIDS Homeless Crisis Rages In L.A.

At Least $17 Million Unspent: Activists Demand Action Following Years of

LOS ANGELES, April 30 /PRNewswire/ -- Following yesterday's release of a
long-awaited -- and blistering -- City Controller's report documenting
widespread mismanagement of L.A.'s city-run, federally funded H.O.P.W.A.
(Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS) program, a group of AIDS and
homeless activists led by AIDS Healthcare Foundation held a press conference
this morning in front of Mayor Richard Riordan's office decrying the City's
ongoing mismanagement of tens of millions of federal AIDS housing dollars
while a crisis of AIDS homelessness rages in Los Angeles.  The report
documented at least $17 million unspent or ``only recently programmed,'' with
some unspent funds dating back as far as 1994.

``This report confirms what we've being saying all along about the City's
gross mismanagement of L.A.'s AIDS housing program,'' said Michael Weinstein,
AIDS Healthcare Foundation president.  ``Rather than look seriously at our
allegations and interpretations of earlier financial reports, city officials
instead chose to 'shoot the messenger' by attacking or ignoring us while an
untold number or Angelenos with AIDS lived -- and died -- on the streets as
money to house them went unspent.''

``We've demanded an emergency plan of action since October,'' said Cesar
Portillo, AHF's Government Affairs Director.  ``Since the housing bureaucrats
are still denying serious problems with HOPWA, we are now also demanding that
the Mayor fire the bureaucrats responsible or turn the program over to the

The press conference preceded a regularly-scheduled 10 a.m. City Council
meeting during which the local H.O.P.W.A. (Housing Opportunities for Persons
With AIDS) program in question was on the agenda.  The press conference was
the fifth such action by the activists on the issue since September 1998.
Each previous event -- press conferences, protests and an all-night AIDS
housing vigil in October at Getty House, the Mayor's official, but uninhabited
residence -- drew little or no response from City officials despite widespread
media coverage of the actions.

The report, Observations and Recommendations for Housing Opportunities for
Persons with AIDS Program Funding Survey Report, was released yesterday by Los
Angeles City Controller Rick Tuttle.  Among its findings:

--  ``Federal HOPWA Program funds administered by the City for County
residents have not been committed or used timely.''

--  ``Approximately $17 million of the current and prior years funding has
only recently been programmed ...''<p>--  There is inadequate long-term
program planning.``

--  ``The LAHD (L.A. Housing Department) needs to break the cycle of being
a year or two behind the funding cycle and plan proactively for the future.''

--  ``... inadequate goals or measures to effectively gauge performance,
and no plan to continually identify and address the primary needs of the
affected community and measure results of the program.''

--  ``... the recent study (with Shelter Partnership) did not quantify the
unmet needs of the entire affected community.''

--  ``... no comprehensive outreach program ... HOPWA brochures are
outdated and only available in English.''

In October 1998, Los Angeles City officials publicly admitted to amassing
$17 million in unspent federal AIDS emergency housing funds.  In January, the
city quietly released the final copy of an AIDS housing study it conducted
with Shelter Partnership showing two-thirds of local AIDS residents surveyed
reported homelessness.  These same statistics had been released earlier in a
preliminary report over ten months ago (on July 22, 1998) and had caused local
activists to protest the issue of unspent money/homeless people with AIDS on
at least four different occasions -- a press conference in September at Getty
House, a 34-hour vigil for the AIDS homeless at Getty House in October and at
two previous press conferences at the Mayor's office.

AHF organized the 34-hour housing vigil in October in front of Mayor
Riordan's official -- but vacant -- mansion in the City's posh Hancock Park
district, protesting city inaction on AIDS housing.  Activists decried the
threat to individuals who depend on complex prescription drug schedules, but
who can't maintain life-saving treatment while homeless.  At that time, the
City responded by estimating that ``only'' between 5.5 million and 6.8 million
AIDS housing dollars went unspent.

Tuttle's report outlines several recommendations to ``enhance HOPWA Program
performance and ensure compliance with Federal program mandates.''  Among them:

--  Evaluate the needs of HIV/AIDS patients Countywide and prioritize the
areas where HOPWA program funds are most needed;

--  Quantify the amount of unspent HOPWA funds from current and prior year
grants ... significant unspent funds remaining in contracts from Program years
as early as 1994 ...

--  Develop a strategic plan to match unspent available funds to
prioritized needs;

--  Work with Oversight Committee and City Council to speed up the process
of identifying providers and reprogramming monies to ensure needs are met,
including increasing outreach efforts;

--  Provide adequate management oversight of the program, including the
addition or reassignment of senior level staff ...

``I truly hope that this scathing report finally serves as catalyst for the
long-overdue overhaul of the City's handling of HOPWA,'' said Weinstein,
``but I
won't put away my protest signs just yet.''

SOURCE: AIDS Healthcare Foundation


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