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Amid coronavirus, West Hollywood’s LGBTQ community hears echoes of the AIDS crisis

California already faced a shortage of more than 1 million homes for low-income families before the novel coronavirus hit. And now many advocates, economists and politicians say the pandemic is only going to make the situation worse.

Major job losses, particularly in low-wage restaurant and hospitality sectors, and what will probably be severely depressed tax revenues for California and its cities, could create an even greater need for affordable housing at a time when the government has less money available to help finance it.

“There are all these households that are one Los Angeles News paycheck away from not being able to pay their rent,” said Carolina Reid, faculty research advisor at UC Berkeley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation. “Well, now that paycheck is gone. And there’s no prospect for when that paycheck is coming back.”


On Thursday, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered all 40 million Californians to stay at home — with limited exemptions for crucial businesses, such as grocery stores — to slow the spread of the coronavirus. While many people are now working from home, that option isn’t available to restaurant and hospitality workers, who have lost jobs and seen their hours cut as food service is limited to grocery stores, and takeout and delivery services.

This month, David Cooley, owner of the iconic West Hollywood LGBTQ club the Abbey Food & Bar, watched in horror as news changed by the hour — as restaurants shut in France, as countries sealed their borders with Italy, as friends in Barcelona were quarantined.

Cooley recognized the severity of the situation and acted before Press Release Distribution Services In Los Angeles others did — partly because the new pandemic instantly recalled another health crisis that slammed his community 40 years ago. He closed the Abbey and its sister club, the Chapel, on March 12, four days before Los Angeles County mandated that bars bolt their doors amid coronavirus fears.

And he worried that young people — who weren’t alive in the early 1980s when the first news reports broke about a mysterious “gay cancer” stalking U.S. cities — weren’t taking the new menace seriously enough.

“I lived through the AIDS crisis,” he said. “I was marching the streets and telling the people to get out of the bars and go home.”

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