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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA / A news summary

Activists, Mayor's Office Split on Housing Audit

May 06, 2000

LOS ANGELES — A state audit that found mismanagement of Los Angeles' housing initiative for poor people drew praise from activists as being right on target, while the mayor's office called it out of date.

The 49-page report, released this week by the California State Auditor, described the Housing Opportunities for People With AIDS program as mismanaged. It also found that as of last June, nearly $22 million in grant money the city received from the federal government to secure housing for AIDS victims remained unspent, coupled with an appearance of conflict of interest in several actions of the city program's advisory committee.

The conclusions were similar to those of the consultant hired by the city following repeated allegations that it had not done enough to serve homeless and low-income populations suffering from AIDS.

Based on the consultant's findings, city officials began making changes to the program in October, said Ferd Eggan, the city AIDS coordinator. The audit "is almost entirely valid except that we have tried to correct the problems already," he added.

For example, the Housing Department has doubled the number of program staff members to five. Most of the grant money thus far is in the process of being doled out, he said, adding that half of the $22 million only recently arrived.

Ged Kenslea, a spokesman for the program's chief critic, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, denied seeing substantive improvements, however, especially in how the money was spent. Instead of more costly refurbishing of apartment buildings to house AIDS patients together, for example, the money should be spent on rent subsidies that help more people, Kenslea said.

"They are spending faster, but are they really spending wiser?" Kenslea asked. He added that as many as 28,000 people could benefit from the services, more than three times the number currently served.

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