City Council Hammers Mayor On AIDS

City Council Hammers Mayor On AIDS

HIV/AIDS Services Administration hit on housing services

A City Council report slammed the HIV AIDS Services Administration (HASA), charging it was providing sub-standard housing and services in some of the 114 emergency and transitional facilities it uses to house people with AIDS.

Council staff looked at 25 “emergency and transitional housing facilities for HASA clients, randomly selected from a list of 114.”

They interviewed 19 clients at the 25 facilities, and checked the records of three city agencies, other than HASA, for any code violations cited in the past year at the 25 buildings.

A number of facilities violated either standards set in Local Law 49, the legislation that governs HASA, or court orders issued in connection with lawsuits against the agency for its operations.

Thirteen out of 23 facilities had more than one client in a bedroom (excluding couples); 9 out of 21 had communal rather than individual refrigerators for storing medications; 9 out of 21 had communal bathrooms instead of individual bathrooms; 10 out of 20 did not supply mattresses, linens or toilet paper; and three out of 20 failed to supply heat for some period of time during the city’s “heat season” running from October 1 to May 31.

The Council staff could not get into every building to investigate conditions.

At a small number of the facilities, typically ranging from one to three, the report documented water leaks, no running water, broken windows, doors without locks, holes in the walls and ceilings, and rodent or roach infestations.

A records search at the Department of Housing Preservation and Development found that five of 15 facilities had violations classified as “immediately hazardous, 11 had “hazardous” violations, and five had “non-hazardous” violations in the prior year.

At the Department of Buildings, 17 of the 25 facilities had open, or unresolved, violations concerning the electrical system, the elevators, or the boiler.

Twelve of the 25 were cited for boiler, electrical, site safety, or local law violations by the Environmental Control Board. All of those violations are open.

The report also faulted HASA for failing to adequately assist its clients in obtaining temporary and permanent housing.

The City Council recommended that HASA create a central housing referral system and that it comply with Local Law 49. The Council itself should strengthen that law, according to the report.

In a press statement, City Council Speaker Gifford Miller blasted HASA.

“Safe, medically appropriate housing is integral to the health of those who live with HIV and AIDS,” his statement read. “Those with low or no incomes turn to [HASA] for help, not another slap in the face. Those who live with HIV and AIDS should be able to live with dignity and respect. The city has to make sure that when the owners of these facilities receive city money they comply with the law.”

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, in a press conference following the June 27 Gay Pride March, dismissed the report with a comment premised on his winning a second term next year.

“I can’t spend the next six years responding to every crazy press conference that people who don’t know what they are talking about have,” he said.

The mayor went on to praise his commissioner at the Department of Homeless Services, an agency not mentioned in the report. Bloomberg then praised Verna Eggleston, commissioner at the Human Resources Administration (HRA), when a reporter noted the error. It is HRA, and not Homeless Services, that oversees HASA.

HRA defended its operations in a June 30 press statement.

“HRA takes extremely seriously its responsibility to ensure medically appropriate housing for homeless clients of [HASA,” the statement read. “We have procedures in place to make sure our HASA clients get housing that is appropriate for them. All clients in emergency housing are encouraged to alert us to any problems in their housing. We do inspections of the facilities where our clients are placed to identify any inappropriate or substandard conditions, and when we discover problems we demand that they be corrected. If facilities do not correct problems that jeopardize the health of our clients, we remove those facilities from our housing referral list and move clients immediately to a more appropriate setting.”

City Council Speaker Gifford Miller, a Manhattan Democrat.

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