California Latino LGBT and HIV Service Center Evicted 48 Hours After Opening

By Sunnivie Brydum

Originally published on Advocate.com September 01 2012 12:42 PM ET

A Southern California center serving the Latino LGBT and HIV-positive community has been evicted from its new offices just two days after opening, the organization reports. Bienestar is a non-profit social services organization offering testing, support and information to the Southern California Latino LGBT, HIV-positive, and other at-risk communities since 1989.

Just 48 hours after opening in a new Van Nuys location, the landlord forcibly evicted the organization, saying it was "bringing disease" to the building. Bienestar has filed a lawsuit to regain access to its property, still locked inside the building.

On Monday, August 13, Bienestar began providing services at their new location at 14546 Hamlin St., in Van Nuys, Calif. On Tuesday, August 14, Bienestar reports the landlord demanded the organization remove its belongings and vacate the premesis. That same day, a locksmith arrived to change the locks on the building, denying Bienestar members access to their property inside the building, including confidential client files.

On August 15, the landlord informed Bienestar that he was immediately and permanently terminating the three-year lease signed by the organization. Bienestar reports that the landlord initially gave no justification for the eviction, but later claimed that Bienestar was making inappropriate use of the space and "bringing disease" to the building.

"We feel that we have been treated unfairly," Oscar De La O, president and CEO of the organization, said in a press release. "The landlord's actions are a shocking example of the kind of LGBT and HIV/AIDS discrimination that Bienestar has committed itself to fight against and overcome... This situation is very unexpected and distressing, especially when we have performed these same services half a block down the street from this Van Nuys location for 12 years. We have never faced this kind of situation before at any of our nine Southern California centers."

Bienestar will offer limited services in Van Nuys from its mobile unit, currently located outside the organization's former office at 14515 Hamlin St. Services, including case management, rapid HIV testing and referrals, will be available every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Bienestar is a community-based grassroots social service organization aimed at positively impacting the health and well-being (bienestar in Spanish) of the Latino LGBT, HIV-positive and other at-risk communities in Southern California. Bienestar also seeks to raise awareness around HIV, AIDS, and substance abuse. The organization boasts nine community centers in Southern California, including several in Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernadino counties.