HOUSING POLITICS - Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles attorney Barbara Schultz, Los Angeles Community Action Network, former AIDS Healthcare Foundation employee Karla Leiva, and Ernest Cornish have repeatedly attacked AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
They have disrupted AHF’s lifesaving work to urgently address Los Angeles’ homelessness crisis — and show no signs of letting up. As a result, AHF has no choice but to release a report that exposes the personal agendas and sordid histories of Schultz, LACAN, Leiva, and Cornish.
In 2017, AIDS Healthcare Foundation established Healthy Housing Foundation (HHF), a housing provider division, and Housing Is A Human Right, a housing advocacy division. Based in Los Angeles, AHF saw the human suffering caused by the housing affordability and homelessness crises, which were impacting AHF clients. Once a housing provider for terminally ill AIDS patients, AHF decided to return to its roots and provide low-income and homeless housing through the adaptive reuse of old hotels and motels in the L.A. area. Healthy Housing Foundation would manage the properties.
It has been an incredible success. While the city of L.A. struggled to quickly build homeless housing, AHF and HHF created nearly 1,200 units of low-income and homeless housing in only four years at such hotels as the King Edward, Baltimore, and Madison in Downtown L.A. Recently, AHF held a groundbreaking ceremony in Downtown L.A. for the construction of a new affordable-housing project, which will provide 216 units for low-income and unhoused residents. Schultz, Leiva with help from LACAN, and Cornish now threaten to undermine AHF’s important work.
Schultz and crew have forced AHF and HHF to devote time and resources on responding to their harmful actions rather than focus on addressing L.A.’s homelessness crisis — a humanitarian catastrophe that’s caused the deaths of hundreds of unhoused residents in L.A. every year. In other words, Schultz, Leiva, LACAN, and Cornish are not only harming AHF and HHF, but they are also hurting the lower-income and unhoused residents who benefit from AHF and HHF’s work.
What’s driving this damaging behavior? In our report, we detail Schultz’s apparent quest to win a big payday from AHF — LACAN, where Schultz has been a longtime board director, may also benefit. In addition, the attorney and LACAN appear to be using Leiva for their personal gain. And Schultz is empowering Cornish, a tenant at HHF’s King Edward Hotel who has a history of making violent threats and receiving restraining orders.
For her part, Leiva is a disgruntled former employee who appears to have a vendetta against AHF and wants to win a workers’ compensation settlement from the organization. She appears to be manipulating Cornish for her personal agenda.
And Cornish is a man who seems to relish causing trouble for others.
Our report also lays out two other disturbing revelations. First, Schultz settled a lawsuit with the CRA/LA, creating a job training fund that received $2.5 million. How was it spent? Legal Aid Foundation and LACAN used 72 percent of the $2.5 million to build new offices. Second, Schultz made a deal with Onni Group, a major developer that owned a residential hotel in Downtown L.A. and wanted to renovate it. Onni paid $1 million to a trust fund that Legal Aid Foundation administered. The result? The permanent loss of 36 affordable units and Onni’s building would no longer be subjected to a protective measure known as the Wiggins Settlement Agreement.
AHF and HHF have long track records of helping underserved populations in Los Angeles and, in AHF’s case, around the world. AHF, the world’s largest HIV/AIDS medical-care nonprofit, serves more than 1.6 million patients in 45 countries, including South Africa, Uganda, China, Cambodia, Estonia, Russia, and the United States. AHF, in fact, brought free HIV drug treatment to dying South Africans against the wishes of the South African government, and has subsequently saved countless lives.
AHF, which sent a letter to Legal Aid Foundation in an effort to resolve the situation but never received a reply, can no longer allow Schultz, LACAN, Leiva, and Cornish to harm its critical housing work. Lives literally hang in the balance. Our report lays out the connections between these parties and what they stand to gain by attacking AHF.
(This column was provided by Housing is a Human Right, the housing advocacy division of AIDS Healthcare Foundation.) Photo: AHF recently held a groundbreaking ceremony for a new affordable-housing project in Downtown L.A.