When their friends were dying of AIDS or being evicted from their homes, two friends decided to take on San Francisco’s housing crisis. Fourteen years later, not only are they helping AIDS survivors, their non-profit has expanded to help the entire LGBT community. And they are this week’s Jefferson Award winners.
Brian Basinger says in 2003, the idea just came to him.
“I actually woke up with a dream and there was this loud booming voice that said, ‘You must organize housing for people with AIDS!’, Basinger recalled. “That really happened.”
Basinger is a longtime AIDS survivor himself. His partner, James Nykolay, is HIV positive and a cancer survivor. They say too many of their friends were either dying from AIDS, or were being kicked out of their homes by landlords looking to raise the rent.
“I got out a legal pad and I wrote down everybody with HIV I knew and there was not one single person that was not having a housing problem,” Basinger explained. “I was like, ‘Oh my God there is something going on here!'”
Nykolay was living that problem.
“I have lived homeless in this city for a year,” he said. “Yes, and struggled with drug addiction and I was maybe a year on the outside of that when I met Brian.”
Together, they started The AIDS Housing Alliance in 2004. Last year, the organization became the Q Foundation, with much of its financial help coming from the City of San Francisco. The Foundation has expanded to help hundreds of clients through its housing and health care clinics, charity referrals, and financial subsidies. And today, it’s expanded to help low-income LGBT seniors, and those disabled by conditions other than HIV, like Hollie Beck, who was 30 days from eviction when she went to Basinger and Nykolay for help.
“(They) gave me back the years I thought I didn’t have,” she explained. “After losing my life partner, San Francisco was my family. And I couldn’t move. I had no where else to go.”
Basinger and Nykolay see the Foundation as their life’s purpose.
“I really did have a dream,” Basinger said. “And I am living my dream… and, I mean how many people get to do that?”
So for helping the LGBTQ community find and keep quality housing, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Brian Basinger and James Nykolay