San Francisco is known for being on the cutting edge of AIDS treatments. The City developed a internationally mimicked, ground breaking, comprehensive system of AIDS care that was unrivaled in the early years of the plague. Now some Castro residents face another foe in their ongoing battle to survive AIDS that’s as deadly as any opportunistic infection or illness they might contract –eviction.
According to a recent post by KQED the two neighborhoods currently hardest hit with ‘no fault evictions’ are the Castro and Bernal Heights. Both areas have historically had large populations of Gay Men and Lesbians, People Living with AIDS (PWA), and LGBT seniors.
As we’ve posted in April evictions are way, way up Citywide. The Rent Board’s Annual Eviction Report clocks eviction rates up 80% from 2012 alone. The Executive Director of the AIDS Housing Alliance, Brian Basinger, agrees saying, “We are at a 12-year high for evictions in San Francisco, fueled by real estate speculation.”
Disabled LGBT seniors are among the most vulnerable. A 2013 report by the City’s LGBT Aging Policy Task Force found that 40% of Queer seniors surveyed do not have the minimum income to meet their basic needs. The stress of that situation contributed to 15% of respondents had also contemplated suicide in the past year.
Another alarming City report published this past Summer revealed 29% of San Franciscos homeless population self identify as LGBT and more than 9% of those individuals say being chucked from their homes onto City streets was a direct result of being evicted.
One such PWA, Tim Oviatt, 64, is the former owner of Castro clothing boutique, All American Boy. For 34 years All American Boy t-shirts and clothing were synonymous with the ‘Castro Clone’ look. Mr. Oviatt lived in his car for eight months before the staff at AIDS Housing Alliance was able to procure him a new stable living situation post eviction.
Mr. Oviatt’s story is not a-typical. Castro businessman Jonathan Klien, who owned Now Voyager, the first LGBT travel agency in the neighborhood, took his own life in April after becoming despondent facing the prospect of an Ellis Act eviction from a home he’d occupied for 28 years.
Mr. Klien’s former roommate, Peter Greene, who was also evicted from the property said in KQED’s post; “The thing with these buyouts is where to do you go? People say, well, you got ‘blah, blah, blah amount of dollars,’ but it doesn’t create a new life here in San Francisco. You’re just essentially just being told to get out-of-town, and here’s a few bucks to try to figure it out.”
As we reported in April, Jeremy Mykaels, a disabled PWA resident who’s lived 17 of his 40 SF years in the Castro, has been battling his eviction for more than a year. Mr. Mykaels refused a buyout package offered by his landlords. They responded by serving Mykaels with an Ellis Act eviction. Under California law, owners can use the Ellis Act to leave the rental business and either live in their newly purchased space or remodel and sell it –and by consequence– legally evict their tenants.
Sen. Mark Leno who represents the Castro in Sacramento attempted to introduce a bill altering the Ellis Act. In it he asked new rental building owners to hold the property for five years before selling, but the bill garnered zero support from other members of the legislature and died on the vine.
While the State flounders in response to our neighborhood needs the City is acknowledging their own multiple agency findings. On Monday, Oct 7th, a ground-breaking symposium was held at the SF LGBT Center dubbed LGBTQ Connect. The event was a umbrella gathering of every organization and City provider serving LGBT homeless, under-housed or at risk citizens under one roof. This allowed residents one stop access to housing assistance. It was standing room only as in need neighbors lined up to see what options were available to help ease their housing woes.
It’s apparent this problem isn’t going away and if last years figures hold true it will expand as the affordable housing market and available rent-controlled units continue to shrink. We hope to see citizens, community groups, City departments, politicians and creative thinkers come together to amass a larger plan of action and strategy in response or the number of PWA’s and LGBT seniors living on our streets will continue to escalate.