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 1.3 million patients in 43 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.
AHF carries out a multi-pronged, community-based approach known as the “3 Ps”:
- Protect tenants: prevent gentrification and homelessness by keeping rents under control and discouraging evictions;
- Preserve communities: support progressive, sustainable land-use policies that maintain neighborhood integrity and allow working- and middle-class families to stay in their communities;
- Produce housing: Produce truly affordable housing through adaptive reuse and cost-effective new construction.
Returning to its roots as a housing provider, AHF’s Healthy Housing Foundation owns and operates several low-income housing buildings in the L.A. area.
Housing Is A Human Right advocates for more just and healthy housing policies. That includes HHR’s participation in various statewide, grassroots campaigns, such as reducing evictions and expanding rent control.
It’s time to demand that elected leaders and policymakers urgently address our housing affordability and homeless crises as public health emergencies. People’s lives hang in the balance.