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Housing is a Public Health Issue

In News by Patrick Range McDonald

From the American Public Health Association to the World Health Organization, experts agree that affordable, sanitary housing is essential for good health — and for healthy communities. Treating hundreds of thousands of lower-income patients around the world, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which sponsors Healthy Housing Foundation and Housing Is A Human Right, understands that housing is a public health issue better than most.

AHF has cared for people living with HIV/AIDS for more than 30 years. Initially founded, in 1987, as “AIDS Hospice Foundation,” the organization provided housing and medical services to terminally ill AIDS patients at three hospices in the Los Angeles area. Without that housing, AHF’s clients would have endured more physical pain, more financial strain, and more mental stress.

Since 1996, AIDS Healthcare Foundation has been delivering free HIV drug treatment to mostly lower-income people — and now serves nearly 900,000 patients in 39 countries.

Today, affordable housing plays an integral part in stabilizing the lives of AHF’s patients, who live with a chronic illness and need to adhere to an HIV drug regimen. Without secure housing, patients’ lives are destabilized, which negatively impacts their ability to maintain their health and treatment.

AHF, which has tackled such public health issues as the 2014 Ebola epidemic in Africa, is also concerned about the larger impacts of unaffordable housing and homelessness on the global community as a whole.

A study in the American Journal of Public Health noted: “Poor housing conditions are associated with a wide range of health conditions, including respiratory infections, asthma, lead poisoning, injuries, and mental health. Addressing housing issues offers public health practitioners an opportunity to address an important social determinant of health.”

For all those reasons, AHF started up Healthy Housing Foundation and Housing Is A Human Right to substantively address the public health issues of gentrification, homelessness, and affordable housing.

For addressing the housing affordability crisis, AHF carries out a multi-pronged, community-based approach known as the “3 Ps”:

  • Protect tenants through rent control and other protections;
  • Preserve existing affordable housing, not demolish it to make way for luxury housing;
  • Produce new affordable housing through the adaptive reuse of existing buildings and other cost-effective methods as well as provide more government funding.

Returning to its roots as a housing provider, AHF’s Healthy Housing Foundation owns and operates two homeless housing buildings in Los Angeles: the Madison Hotel in Downtown and the Sunset 8 Motel in Hollywood.

Housing Is A Human Right (HHR) advocates for more just and healthy housing policies. That includes HHR’s participation in the statewide, grassroots movement to repeal Costa-Hawkins, the anti-rent control law that hurts working people.

On Saturday, April 7, the World Health Organization will sponsor World Health Day, which is dedicated to calling for universal healthcare coverage. It’s also a time to demand that elected leaders and policymakers urgently address our affordable-housing and homeless crises as public health emergencies. People’s lives hang in the balance.

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