Category Archives: homelessness

Congress Revamps Housing Program To Benefit Areas Where HIV Is Spreading

In a bipartisan push, Congress has restructured a federal program that provides housing assistance for people living with HIV to funnel more money into areas struggling to control the outbreak.

While legislators and housing advocates say the adjustments will better target regions with high rates of the virus, these changes are likely to mean less money for some of the large cities that confronted the early effects of the epidemic.

To help with the transition, Congress increased funding for the Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA) program about 6 percent this year. In the past, this money was distributed across the country based on a jurisdiction’s cumulative number of cases (including people who had died).

Now under the 2017 funding, finalized by Congress in May, HOPWA has awarded $320.4 million to qualifying states and local jurisdictions to be apportioned primarily based on their share of the total number of people living with the virus. The number of cases required to qualify for funding also changed from 1,500 cumulative AIDS cases to 2,000 living cases of HIV/AIDS.

No jurisdiction will receive less HOPWA money than in 2016, but about 25 cities and counties are getting a smaller piece of the pie than before. The top five seeing their percentage of funding drop are, in order, New York City, Atlanta, Miami, Washington, D.C., and Houston.

“As the formula is fully implemented, without additional funds those jurisdictions will lose out,” said Opal Jones, vice president of the National AIDS Housing Coalition, a housing advocacy group in favor of the formula change. “It’s a great start. It’s just not enough.”

The program, which began in 1992, provides financial assistance to help participants pay for rent, mortgage and utility costs. HOPWA also offers competitive grants to jurisdictions and organizations, but that allotment accounts for only about 10 percent of its budget and is not included in the $320.4 million.

Shelter represents one of the most important factors in determining an individual’s success in HIV treatment. According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which administers the HOPWA program, housing instability is linked to delayed testing and gaps in care. The department estimates roughly half of the individuals living with HIV in the U.S. will experience a housing crisis in their lifetime.

“I think we can’t underestimate the power that home has in improving the health in somebody with a chronic condition,” said Russell Bennett, executive director of the National AIDS Housing Coalition.

Shyronn Jones, 39, has struggled financially since she was diagnosed with HIV. She was once a homeowner in New York, but when she moved to Atlanta several years ago, the only housing she could afford was an apartment in a crime-ridden pocket of the city. She was having trouble getting medical care, her white blood cell count dipped to dangerously low levels, and her mental health deteriorated.

But then, a housing assistance organization connected Jones to HOPWA, which helped her to move into a better neighborhood with a nearby grocery store, post office and park, where her daughter can play.

“I had a lot riding on HOPWA,” she said. “HOPWA just saved me.”

Seeking to soften the impact of the formula change, the law increased appropriations this year so that each jurisdiction would see at least a small rise in funding. Over time, areas with higher rates of HIV transmission, such as the South, will continue seeing increases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated 44 percent of all individuals living with HIV in the country reside in the South, even though only 37 percent of the U.S. population live in the region.

The extra $20 million allocation nationwide this year translated to double-digit percentage increases for more than 100 out of the 140 participating jurisdictions. Smaller cities such as Greenville, S.C., and Syracuse, N.Y., saw their funding jump by nearly 14 percent. Notably, some larger metropolitan hubs such as Portland, Ore., and Chicago also saw similar growth in their grants.

But efforts to funnel money into current HIV epicenters without additional funding could mean cuts for large metropolitan areas such as Atlanta and New York. To mitigate potential losses, the program’s statute stipulates that over the next five years, a grantee cannot lose more than 5 percent or gain more than 10 percent of its share of the previous year’s total HOPWA formula funds.

“We’ll see some losses in funding [for some areas] over the years,” said Rita Flegel, director of the Office of HIV/AIDS Housing. “And then money will be distributed more evenly among people living with HIV.”

Rep. David Price (D-N.C.), who was one of the co-sponsors of the bill that reformulated the funding, said the phase-in coupled with the boost in funding helped assuage fears of cutbacks among lawmakers from areas with a legacy of large numbers of HIV cases.

“People of all sorts of political persuasions supported this because this was a question of fairness,” he said. Yet, “it was very clear that we needed to increase the size of the pie to make this proposition less difficult.”

One of the cities that could lose out is the nation’s capital. Nearly 13,000 residents, or nearly 2 percent of the population, live with HIV in Washington, D.C., according to the city’s health department.

HOPWA has not been able to keep up with demand of the area’s residents and the city discontinued its waiting list last year with more than 1,200 individuals, according to Michael Kharfen, the senior deputy director of the city’s HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD, and TB Administration. The area is expected to receive $11.2 million, a 1 percent increase from last year’s funding.

But the nation’s capital is not unique in its struggle to keep up with the demand. According to the latest data from HUD, 138,427 HIV-affected households across the country were in need of housing assistance.

Jones, of Atlanta, now resides in a three-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment in a neighborhood she dreamed of while growing up in New York City.

Her white blood cell count has doubled since her move, she said, and her mental state has improved. Jones, who is a policy fellow for the HIV advocacy organization Positive Women’s Network USA and runs a business that advises HIV patients on resources, is grateful to HOPWA for the assistance. But she said she hopes to become self-sufficient and help others dealing with situations similar to those she once faced.

“That’s what I’m striving for,” she said.

Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

My political crush on Pope Francis

Pope Francis ABC News
During the Pope’s broadcast, which was moderated by ABC News’ “World News Tonight” anchor David Muir on Monday, the pontiff spoke for nearly an hour via satellite from the Vatican with individuals from the Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago’s inner city, congregants from Sacred Heart Church in McAllen, Texas, located near the U.S.-Mexico border, and homeless men and women and those working with the homeless in Los Angeles.

I never expected this to happen. At least in my lifetime.

Fascination. With a Pope.

Other popes have failed miserably in getting my attention. I have always been a critic. An unrelenting one.

Not because I am Catholic, but because I spent so much time interviewing and befriending LGBT Catholics just after I moved to Boston from the American Midwest. I soon realized how much emotional damage had been done to so many of these poor souls in their formative years by clergy obsessed with genitalia and sin rather than redemption and good works. 

But Pope Francis has turned me into convert.

(No, not THAT kind of convert. A socio-political convert.)

Did you watch the ABC News interview with Pope Francis with gaydar pinging anchor David Muir?

The network described the event this way:

Pope Francis had a piece of advice for the Americans he spoke to during a virtual audience hosted by ABC News: “Be courageous.”

During the event, which was moderated by ABC News’ “World News Tonight” anchor David Muir on Monday, the pontiff spoke for nearly an hour via satellite from the Vatican with individuals from the Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago’s inner city, congregants from Sacred Heart Church in McAllen, Texas, located near the U.S.-Mexico border, and homeless men and women and those working with the homeless in Los Angeles.

The three locations were selected by ABC News because they are in parts of the country that Pope Francis will not be visiting during his historic trip to the United States, later this month.

The selected speakers, which included an undocumented teenager who had lost a soccer scholarship to college and a homeless mother of two, were all people who had struggled with adversity. The speakers were told beforehand they would get to share their story with his Holiness. 

Pope Francis
Pope Francis washes the feet at the Don Gnocchi Foundation Center in Rome, Thursday, April 17, 2014. The Pontiff has washed the feet of 12 elderly and disabled people — women and Muslims among them — in a pre-Easter ritual that scandalized many Vatican insiders and enraged some conservatives. Francis’ 2013 decision to perform the Maundy Thursday ritual on women and Muslim inmates at a juvenile detention center just two weeks after his election helped define his rule-breaking papacy. (Photo: L’Osservatore Romano.)

Unlike previous Popes, when this one told them to “be courageous” he wasn’t speaking to right-wingers trying to block abortion clinics or bishops trying to silence progressive American nuns for taking stances on social justice issues

Instead it was — let’s see, how to put this? … it was, you know, Jesus-type issues.

The things you imagine Jesus Christ the person might have talked about in his earthly lifetime if he lived now and crashed the Republican National Convention, commandeered the podium from Ted Cruz, and informed every money-grubbing hater in the audience that they had it all exactly oppositely wrong about what makes Jesus happy and what makes Jesus sad.

 And. by the way, they are all going to be sentenced when they die to an indefinite number of years back on Earth, in limbo, serving loving two-parent families headed by disabled black lesbians with Spanish surnames.

Media-Savvy And Willing To Use It

The Pope spoke on ABC via satellite to:

  • Immigrant children who told harrowing stories of dangerous journeys in hope of a better life.
  • He spoke to homeless people as if they were humans and not inconvenient outcasts to be swept out of public view.
  • He comforted and encouraged a teenage Latino boy caring for his disabled father and siblings while that boy postpones his dream of attending college.
  • Finally he unexpectedly called out of the audience a shocked but teary-eyed progressive nun who had assisted some of the people in the audience to thank her personally for her work with the people America’s right-wing despises most: immigrants, the homeless and the poor. 

It was touching and uplifting, despite being so sad in parts.

And it must’ve been making the inside of wingnut heads across the country feel full of angry hornets.

Previous Popes reprimanded activist American nuns rather than congratulate them on live national TV and say, with a smile, “I love you!”

The hatred wingnuts are now spewing toward Pope Francis in the wake of all this uplifting Christian love has been remarkably vitriolic, vile and even scarier than that which has come before.

Wingnuttia is terrified of this Pope. As well it  should be.

They can see he is the perfect foil toward their hijacking of religion. They are so desperate they are trying to paint Francis as being not Christian enough. 

Got that? Pope Francis fails to meet Wingnuttia’s low bar for being a Christian. You know they are desperately bigoted and grasping at straws when they try to fan people’s fears and ignorance with that argument. I wonder how Catholics will feel about them treating the Pope like just a another guy whom they can target with misinformation and hate campaigns?

Every time a far-Right leader or one of his/her proxies on Fox News tries to smear Francis, he and his handlers respond with some genius move — e.g., the ABC News event — that counters their misinformation and puts him back on track as being the religious and pop culture phenomenon he’s become: the first multi-partisan, right-left transcending people’s Pope in our lifetimes. 

Pope Francis kissing tumors
Kissing and caressing the tumor-covered head of a man in St. Peter’s Square. (Photo: Independent UK)

To be sure, there are some troubling bumps in the road to Pope-ish nirvana.

For every seemingly pro L, G, B or T utterance or action Francis makes in public. the Vatican seems to retrench by issuing some statement finessing Francis’ comments or replacing it with bigoted, though not hateful, language. The same happens often on the issues around the role of women in Church leadership.

Although these are often presented as having the imprimatur of Francis himself, I suspect they are issued in his name to placate conservative forces already reeling from lurching forward so far, so quickly on climate change, income inequality, immigration, reigning in capitalism’s worst flaws, racism, and other social justice issues which Francis seems to think need the most attention. If this is true, LGBT and women’s rights issues might be being used as boogeyman stand-ins — salves on conservative wounds and worries that their Church will become “socialist.”

“See, we’re not changing EVERYTHING you care about.”

One suspects it’s no coincidence that those two issues — homesexuality and the role of women — happen to be two issues which, if all that has been written about the demographics of the priesthood are true, probably feel most psychologically threatening to the male religious in the Church.

I get it. But i don’t have to like it.

Nonetheless, I’m thrilled this Pope sits on the throne of St. Peter in this time. He is a badly needed counterweight to mighty national and global forces which wield untold money and influence in the world. 

As one of the most powerful religious voices on Earth, he can change the global conversation from his predecessors’ juvenile and distracting fixation on the evils of human sexuality.

Social justice, racial equality and environmental stewardship; his papacy will dramatically benefit everyone on the middle and progressive parts of the political spectrum — and eventually everyone else if we all manage to save humanity from itself.

And who ever thought THAT would happen?

Donald Trump calls attackers of homeless man “passionate”

Donald Trump homeless attack
Suspects in the beating and urination attack on an elderly Latino homeless man in Boston.

One thug specifically said the anti-immigrant rhetoric of Donald Trump was the impetus for the cowardly attack during which they beat and urinated upon an elderly Latino homeless man in Boston:

The homeless man was lying on the ground, shaking, when police arrived early Wednesday. His face was soaked, apparently with urine, his nose broken, his chest and arms battered.

Police said two brothers from South Boston ambushed the 58-year-old as he slept outside of a Dorchester MBTA stop, and targeted him because he is Hispanic. One of the brothers said he was inspired in part by GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump.

The allegations ignited widespread condemnation Wednesday.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh said the brothers “should be ashamed of themselves.” Boston’s top prosecutor, Daniel F. Conley, called the case “sickening.”

Police Commissioner William B. Evans, a South Boston resident, said the brothers had given his neighborhood “a bad name.” He called it “a disgrace.”

Trump, told of the alleged assault, said “it would be a shame . . . I will say that people who are following me are very passionate. They love this country and they want this country to be great again. They are passionate.”

Got that?

Spineless bullies who attack elderly homeless men want “this country to be great again.”


I have one Facebook acquaintance who today observed that this sort of violence is how post-Weimar Germany started down the road to violence and persecution.

That might be true, but I am still doubtful that Trump could ever win a general election.

Keep in mind also that South Boston is full of white racists.

This is not Boston as a whole.

Source: Two South Boston brothers charged with assaulting homeless man – The Boston Globe