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November  11,  2010  
 
Dear  Friend:  
 
I  am  writing  to  share  some  exciting  news  –  as  of  November  11th,  the  NYC  AIDS  Housing  
Network  (NYCAHN)  will  now  be  known  as  VOCAL  New  York  (Voices  Of  Community  
Activists  &  Leaders).      This  letter  explains  why  we  decided  to  “rebrand,”  provides  an  
overview  of  our  current  programs,  and  describes  some  of  our  recent  victories  and  upcoming  
plans.      
 
Please  NOTE  –  NYCAHN  will  remain  a  vital  program  within  VOCAL  New  York  and  will  now  be  
known  as  the  New  York  AIDS  Housing  Network  in  order  to  reflect  our  statewide  efforts  to  
expand  housing  assistance  for  people  living  with  HIV/AIDS.    We  remain  committed  to  strong  
advocacy  on  behalf  of  HIV/AIDS  housing  programs  during  this  difficult  budget  environment.    
 
Our  expanded  mission  as  VOCAL  New  York  is  to  be  a  statewide  grassroots  membership  
organization  building  power  among  low-­‐income  people  who  are  living  with  and  affected  by  
HIV/AIDS,  drug  use  and  incarceration,  along  with  the  organizations  that  serve  them,  to  create  
healthier  and  more  just  communities.    VOCAL  New  York  will  be  the  umbrella  organization  for  
all  of  our  community  organizing,  leadership  development,  civic  engagement,  strategic  
advocacy  and  direct  services  programs.  
 
We  are  proud  to  continue  in  the  spirit  of  our  history.    After  being  started  by  a  coalition  of  
progressive  HIV/AIDS  housing  providers  in  the  mid-­‐1990s,  NYCAHN  incorporated  in  2000  
with  a  focus  on  both  advocacy  for  HIV/AIDS  supportive  housing  programs  and  community  
organizing  with  low-­‐income  people  living  with  HIV/AIDS.    At  the  same  time,  we  also  worked  
to  address  other  structural  drivers  of  the  epidemic  beyond  homelessness,  such  as  reducing  
incarceration  and  expanding  syringe  access.  
 
The  idea  for  VOCAL  New  York  originated  during  a  leadership  retreat  with  our  low-­‐income  
members  about  two  years  ago.    Since  then,  we  have  discussed  it  further  during  general  
membership  meetings  and  with  our  Board  of  Directors  to  better  clarify  our  work  and  how  to  
communicate  it.  
 
Our  new  identity  was  also  driven  by  significant  growth  in  our  work.    We  now  have  three  
organizing  projects,  two  upstate  chapters  in  Westchester  and  Albany,  a  Brooklyn-­‐based  direct  
services  program,  and  are  pursuing  social  change  goals  across  a  range  of  issues.    We  also  
wanted  to  clarify  how  our  work  addresses  the  underlying  causes  of  HIV/AIDS,  incarceration  
and  drug-­‐related  harms.    Creating  healthy  and  just  communities  means  working  to  address  
the  social  determinants  of  health  and  correcting  the  imbalances  in  access  to  resources  and  
political  power  that  drive  health  disparities,  which  has  always  been  at  the  core  of  our  work.  
Our  program  areas  will  remain  the  same:  
 
 Community  Organizing  &  Base  Building:  Our  three  organizing  projects  –  VOCAL  Parolees,  
Users  Union  and  HIV/AIDS  –  are  building  a  powerful  base  of  low-­‐income  New  Yorkers  
living  with  and  affected  by  HIV/AIDS,  drug  use  and  mass  incarceration  to  work  on  their  
own  behalf  to  win  social  change  that  improves  their  lives.    Each  organizing  project  has  
monthly  membership  meetings,  grassroots  campaigns,  weekly  steering  committee  
meetings,  and  regular  direct  action  opportunities.  
 
 New  York  AIDS  Housing  Network:  The  AIDS  Housing  Network  is  our  advocacy  program  
on  behalf  of  non-­‐profit  organizations  that  provide  housing  assistance  for  over  45,000  low-­‐
income  people  living  with  HIV/AIDS  and  their  families  throughout  the  state.    VOCAL  
organizers  also  work  with  providers  to  engage  their  clients  in  our  campaigns.  
 
 Civic  Engagement:  Our  Movement  Vote  program  is  a  non-­‐partisan  voter  registration,  
education  and  get-­‐out-­‐the-­‐vote  effort  targeting  the  most  marginalized  New  Yorkers.    We  
conduct  outreach  in  low-­‐threshold  service  sites  such  as  shelters,  food  pantries  and  syringe  
exchange  programs  in  order  to  engage  people  who  are  unlikely  to  vote.  
 
 Training  and  Leadership  Development:  Through  our  POWER  (People  Organized  for  
Power  &  Equal  Rights)  Academy,  we  offer  leadership  trainings  that  develop  the  skills  and  
issue  knowledge  of  VOCAL  members.  
 
 Direct  Services:  Through  our  Building  Community  program,  we  offer  direct  services  that  
include  support  groups,  syringe  exchange,  hepatitis  screening  and  counseling,  and  
overdose  prevention.    Everyone  who  accesses  services  is  encouraged  to  become  involved  
in  our  community  organizing.  
 
We  are  proud  of  our  victories  during  the  past  year  that  were  won  with  your  support.    Our  
campaigns  were  also  covered  widely  in  the  media,  including  the  New  York  Times,  Daily  News,  
Wall  Street  Journal,  Buffalo  News,  AP,  and  other  outlets.    Highlights  of  recent  victories  include:  
 
• Expanded  Syringe  Access  To  Prevent  HIV  and  Hepatitis  C:  We  passed  a  state  law  that  
strengthened  legal  protections  for  syringe  exchange  participants  by  reconciling  the  Penal  
Code  with  the  Public  Health  Law  nearly  20  years  after  syringe  exchange  first  became  legal.  
 
• Affordable  Housing  &  Homelessness  Prevention:  After  a  four  year  legislative  campaign,  we  
passed  a  major  state  bill  that  would  prevent  about  10,000  New  Yorkers  living  with  
HIV/AIDS  from  becoming  homeless  by  establishing  a  30%  rent  cap  affordable  housing  
protection.  Although  Governor  Paterson  vetoed  it,  we're  working  to  enact  it  before  he  
leaves  office  and  educating  Governor-­‐Elect  Cuomo’s  staff  about  it.    Campaign  updates  are  
available  at  www.HousingFightsAIDS.org.    
 
• Incarceration  -­  Ending  'Prison-­Based  Gerrymandering:'  We  built  a  grassroots  coalition  that  
passed  a  law  changing  the  way  New  York  does  legislative  redistricting  by  ensuring  inmates  
are  counted  in  their  home  communities  instead  of  where  they  are  incarcerated.    This  will  

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restore  voting  power  to  poor  communities  most  impacted  by  incarceration,  HIV/AIDS  and  
the  drug  war.    
 
• Protecting  access  to  HIV/AIDS  services  and  preserving  supportive  housing.    With  robust  
involvement  from  our  network,  we  restored  75%  of  the  proposed  cut  for  supportive  
housing  programs  serving  formerly  homeless  people  living  with  HIV/AIDS,  and  prevented  
the  elimination  of  one-­‐third  of  HASA  caseworkers  who  provide  access  to  Medicaid,  food  
stamps,  housing,  and  other  public  benefits.    Unfortunately,  these  are  one-­‐time  restorations  
and  will  require  aggressive  advocacy  again  in  2011.  
 
Our  2011  platform  is  taking  shape  and  a  draft  version  is  attached.      
 
We  encourage  you  to  visit  the  temporary  version  of  our  new  website  at  www.vocal-­‐ny.org.  We  
will  do  a  full  launch  later  this  year  or  in  early  2011.  
 
We  also  hope  that  you  will  SAVE  THE  DATE  for  two  very  important  events  this  fall:    
 
• 10th  Anniversary  Gala  on  Thursday,  November  11th  from  7pm  –  10pm  at  the  1199  SEIU  
Penthouse  in  Times  Square.    Contact  Charles  for  more  information  or  to  buy  tickets:  
charles@nycahn.org  or  347-­‐200-­‐7248.  
• VOCAL  statewide  Membership  Assembly  on  Friday,  December  10th  (time  and  location  
TBA)  
 
Please  let  me  know  if  you  have  any  questions  about  our  new  name  and  expanded  mission.      I  
look  forward  to  continuing  to  work  together  to  create  a  healthier  and  more  just  New  York.  
 
Sincerely,  

 
Sean  Barry  
Director,  VOCAL  New  York  
(646)  373-­‐3344  /  sean@vocal-­‐ny.org  

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