Last Tuesday, the city’s HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA) released a controversial request for proposals looking to outsource case management and social services programs for an estimated 6,000 formerly homeless clients.
Housing advocates across the city fumed that the proposed three-year, $494,000 contract violates a local law, which requires the city to oversee all case management services.
“This is a basic government responsibility misplaced, and we need to stop it,” said Charles King, executive director of the nonprofit Housing Works. King said his group may mount a legal challenge against the city.
In 1997, in response to then-mayor Rudy Guiliani’s proposal to dismantle the Department of AIDS Services, the City Council passed Local Law 49, which puts the onus on the city to provide “access to benefits and services” and for city staff to “establish any and all elements of eligibility.”
Asked whether the RFP might bump up against that law, Lisi de Bourbon, a spokesperson for HASA, said information from HASA’s contracting office was not available.
King and other housing advocates worry that the recent RFP is just the beginning of an attempt by Mayor Bloomberg to privatize and outsource the duties of HASA, a notoriously disorganized agency hidden within the bowels of the city’s vast Human Resources Administration.
Not everyone sees that as a bad thing. “This is a positive step,” said Robert Bank, managing director of program services at Gay Men’s Health Crisis, a nonprofit that plans to bid on the RFP, which is due February 24. “For clients, the city can seem busy, cold and unsupportive.”
Still, many AIDS advocates argue that HASA’s client base, one of the city’s most vulnerable populations, would be underserved by the contract, which requires a provider to help a minimum of 750 clients per year access a myriad of public entitlements.
“This RFP is the probably the worst thing that can happen,” said Jennifer Flynn, director of the New York City AIDS Housing Coalition, a HASA watchdog. She fears that nonprofits and community based organizations won’t be held to the same standards as HASA and will soon start “creaming” clients—social service lingo for weeding out undesirables and assisting the easiest cases.
“Often, we find that the people who need help the most get the least,” said Flynn. “This proposal will only exacerbate that.”
The bidder’s conference will be held January 28 from 2:00 to 4:00 pm at 180 Water Street, 12th floor.