Los Angeles, California is a city known for its lucrative entertainment industry, hospitable weather and economic opportunities that attract the wealthiest people from across the country and globe. But behind all the bright lights lies a side of L.A. not typically shown on movie screens—as an estimated 59,000 people experience homelessness on any given night in Los Angeles County—second only to New York City.
From poverty, soaring rent prices and gentrification (movement into a formerly deteriorating community by middle-class or wealthy residents), to inept legislation and now the COVID-19 crisis – there are many, often closely linked reasons for increased homelessness within a given area.
In response, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF)—which began in 1987 as a community-based hospice providing housing and medical services to terminally ill people living with HIV at the height of the AIDS epidemic—has returned to its roots by launching its Housing Is a Human Right (HHR) advocacy division and the Healthy Housing Foundation (HHF) in recent years.
“The lack of affordable housing is a primary driver for homelessness in Southern California, a direct threat to the health of our patients and a clear public health issue overall,” said Jacquie Burbank, HHR Western Grassroots Director. “Without stable housing, everything else in a person’s life takes a backseat – especially healthcare. I’m proud that AHF is continuing to fight for those who have no voice and for what should be universally considered as a basic human right.”
AHF addresses the housing crisis on the advocacy front through its HHR division by carrying out a three-tiered approach known as the “3 Ps”: Protect tenants, preserve communities and produce housing. Those tenets are achieved through initiatives, including advocacy to fight harmful legislation, supporting proactive laws, and providing affordable housing for hundreds of lower-income residents in Downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood and East Los Angeles.
AHF’s latest housing legislation effort – the Rental Affordability Act (Proposition 21) – is an initiative that would limit rent increases and preserve affordable housing to help keep California families in their homes. If passed by voters this November, the measure would allow communities to: limit annual rent increases, preserve currently affordable housing; incentivize new housing construction; exempt single-family homeowners; and guarantee landlords a fair profit.
“With the COVID-19 pandemic and the current state of our economy, the fight for what is right surrounding out-of-control housing costs is now more urgent than ever,” said René Christian Moya, Campaign Director of the Rental Affordability Act campaign. “By addressing homelessness and housing affordability head-on, initiatives like Prop. 21 have the potential to put power back in the hands of California residents and help make the state more affordable for all!”