Advocates are skeptical of the city of Atlanta’s plan to restructure how it manages federal dollars to house people living with HIV in and around the city.
Many asked tough questions of city officials about how they administer the Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA) program during a meeting Thursday afternoon.
Some worry the city won’t be able to escape the problems that have plagued its management of HOPWA, such as those that have kept Atlanta from spending tens of millions of dollars from the program.
Among them was Mahlon Randolph, who works to find housing for LGBTQ youth.
“I foresee a similar problem if we do not address this as directly as possible, and the way that we’re going about this currently doesn’t give me confidence that that’s what we’re doing,” he said.
In July, Atlanta announced its plan to centralize management of HOPWA in one office under the management of chief operating officer Joshua Williams. The city also plans to bring in local housing nonprofit Partners for HOME to manage the federal grants.
That came in the wake of complaints about how the program was being run. Housing providers said they hadn’t received the HOPWA funds they were owed, and more than 200 people living with HIV faced eviction.
Partners for HOME says some of those people have found stable housing. But more than 100 are still in the process, according to executive director Cathryn Marchman.
“This is not something we take lightly,” she said. “We are not going to go into this unless we can do it well and unless we can do it right.”
Aside from addressing urgent housing needs, Marchman says her organization is focused on long-term improvements to how the city runs the HOPWA program, such as creating an inventory of all the services it funds for people living with HIV.
Marchman also wants to hear from community members about the gaps in the program as a way to assess which needs are going unmet. She feels modernizing HOPWA will help it run more effectively in the face of expected federal funding cuts.
It’s a process, at least for now, city officials agree is needed.
“For many years there have been issues related to this program and the administration of this program, and we need to do better,” said Williams. “We must do better, and we will do better.”