July 13, 2007
WHAT'S THE HOLD UP, HASA?
This picture should speak for itself
Four years after the New York City Comptroller's office issued a report telling the HIV/AIDS Services Administration to clean up its act, a follow-up audit released June 29 showed that HASA has implemented only one of seven recommended changes and failed to partially or completely implement the rest.
"I am troubled that HASA has resisted making a number of changes that would better serve individuals who often desperately need a roof over their heads and money to make ends meet," New York City Comptroller William Thompson Jr. said in a statement. "People continue to look to the city for help and instead face delays and roadblocks."
Housing Works senior staff attorney Armen Merjian was also dismayed. "While we're glad there are some improvements, it's disheartening that HASA still hasn't implemented some important changes," Merjian said.
In 2003 — as HASA was still recovering from the disarray caused by ex-mayor Rudolph Guiliani's attempts to dismantle the city's support services — the comptroller's audit concluded that HASA was inefficient in processing clients' applications for permanent housing. It also said that case managers at HASA field centers didn't track the progress of permanent housing applications filed with the Housing Unit and that HASA didn't comply with its own time frames for processing requests for financial assistance.
HASA's inability to track people in the placement process is among the most troubling of the findings: HASA couldn't find 16 of the 120 case files requested. In addition, Case by Case Financial Assessments (CBCFA) weren't being processed in a timely manner.
"It's disturbing when the paperwork is not processed in a timely fashion because people need to receive their benefits," said Alex Gertner, a community organizer for NYC AIDS Housing Network.HRA responds
The only change that HASA has implemented in full is updating its computer systems to better track the progress of client applications. However, even that upgrade is misleading. The new report states, "There's no evidence on the computer systems that the case managers scheduled any of the client interviews with permanent housing providers."
A written response by the Human Resources Administration (HRA), the department that oversees HASA, acknowledged that online records needed to be updated, but said that some recommendations, such as speeding up the process of filing CBCFA requests, were not reasonable. HRA told the Update that most of the changes are either partially implemented or will be in the future. But don't hold your breath for a better outcome in the next audit. HRA told the Comptroller the same thing in 2003.
While it is useful that the Comptroller's office followed up on its 2003 audit, HASA needs to address the quality of the housing it offers and not just its processes. "When you talk to people who live in SROs, the permanent housing being shown isn't any better than what they had before," Gertner said.