Associated Press (02.08.12) - Friday, February 10, 2012
New York City Council members on Wednesday questioned
policymakers about a rule that changed eligibility criteria
for clients seeking housing assistance through the HIV/AIDS
Services Administration. Under the policy, which took effect
in the fall, HASA clients have to be screened for substance
abuse and accept treatment or lose eligibility for some
housing services. No one would be denied shelter, HASA
officials said, but that did not assuage some council members'
Adherence to substance abuse treatment would be one factor in
assessing eligibility, Jacqueline Dudley, HASA's deputy
commissioner, told the council's general welfare committee
before a packed hearing. Some 650 HASA clients have been
referred for treatment under the policy and about half have
complied, a HASA spokesperson said.
"Clients who are not compliant will be offered alternative
housing," where on-site counselors can work with them on
substance abuse, Dudley said. Such housing is at 90 percent
capacity, she said.
"I believe you're punishing people, and in some ways pushing
them away at the very moment when you should actually be
bringing them closer," said council member Jimmy Van Bramer.
Housing should not be used as leverage for substance abuse
treatment, said advocates and researchers. In studies, stable
housing has been associated with HIV treatment adherence,
reduced risk behaviors, and obtaining medical care, they said.
"They are making drug treatment the highest priority, above
adherence to HIV antiviral medications, above survival," said
Ginny Shubert, a public policy researcher and consultant. "It
makes no sense."