December 11, 2009 at 3:37 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Fenty pledges to meet with AIDS activists after sit-in arrests

D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty has agreed to meet with representatives of an AIDS group coalition that staged a sit-in outside his office Dec. 1 as part of a World AIDS Day protest.

Two people with the group D.C. Fights Back were arrested during the sit-in after they refused to obey a police order to stop blocking an entrance in the John A. Wilson city hall building.

Christine Campbell, vice president for national advocacy at Housing Works, which pushes for subsidized housing programs for low-income people with HIV/AIDS, said her group joined the protest because the city has failed to reduce a three-year waiting list for AIDS-related housing in the District.

She said repeated meetings with officials at the city’s Department of Health and the mayor’s office resulted in “nothing happening,” prompting the groups to stage the sit-in to demand a meeting with the mayor.

“The system has to be fixed if we’re actually going to have better health outcomes here in the District,” she said. “We knew a woman who was [number] 382 on the waiting list and she called to get an update on where she was,” Campbell said. “They said, ‘We’re not giving numbers anymore.’ They’ll tell someone who applies for housing now that there are about this many people on the list and you’ll have to wait about three to five years.”

Dena Iverson, a spokesperson for the Department of Health, said her office was “continuing its efforts to maximize funding for housing assistance and [will] work with those waiting for housing to help them access services or other potential routes to stable housing situations.”

Michael Kharen, a spokesperson for the city’s AIDS office, said the waiting list for a federally funded AIDS housing program stands at about 500 names. He said there are other housing assistance programs for people with AIDS in addition to the federally funded one, and the city is taking steps to place people in need into those programs.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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