Raphael Bostic, HUD Assistant Secretary, Ken Stram, Director of Economic Development at the SF LGBT Community Center, and Theresa Sparks, Executive Director of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission
More than 120 people gathered in the San Francisco LGBT Community Center’s Rainbow Room on March 1 for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Town Hall Meeting on housing discrimination against the LGBT community.
The attentive audience was drawn by the news that the HUD bureaucrats would be traveling to San Francisco to listen to citizens’ comments about the proposed national study on home sale and rental bigotry. HUD assistant secretaries Raphael Bostic and John Trasviña made it clear that because same-sex marriage is still not a national reality, the State of California and the City of San Francisco can provide expansive protection against unfair treatment. And they stated that since HUD is a landlord, they can work against housing discrimination toward LGBT citizens and people with HIV/AIDS in their properties.
The listening part of the meeting brought a convergence of some well known community activists to the microphone:
Melanie Nation of the County of Marin Human Rights Commission spoke about the shocking cases of discrimination she had encountered.
AIDS Housing Alliance executive director Brian Basinger said that he has been trying for years to get HUD and people with AIDS together, and he said that he wanted the reality of gay poverty and homelessness to be made known. He added that more government funding would then be possible because the need would be established.
Tommi Avicolli Mecca from the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco backed up what Basinger said by describing in detail the myth of widespread gay wealth and its origins. And Avicolli Mecca said that sexual orientation and gender identity should be included in the HUD guidelines in receiving housing funding for tangible change. He told the harrowing story of a battered homeless queer youth and the need for more shelters and permanent housing for LGBT youth.
AIDS Legal Referral Panel (ALRP) executive director Bill Hirsh spoke about his organization’s work to provide legal advice to people with HIV/AIDS and how he hoped that HUD would support ALRP’s efforts in serving more than 2,000 clients a year.
San Francisco City Supervisor David Campos and Cecilia Chung, president of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, eloquently spoke from the stage about the toll of discrimination on the community, and they welcomed the HUD listening tour to the event at The Center.