Clients Have a Friend in the Court
Rick de Ariaz: His “word is gold” for HASA clients.
“De Ariaz thrives off making connections with these clients who are in need of help. He says it is warming when he receives letters from the people he has helped.”
As a Court Liaison for the Borough of Manhattan for the City’s HASA program, Rick de Ariaz is dedicated to keeping HIV/AIDS patients in their homes and helps them get in touch with agencies who can help them.
De Ariaz is in court most days, dealing with arrears and other rent cases, talking to judges and defending clients. This often means getting to know clients and seeing if they can actually pay, and if not, make sure they can transition to a new place. A lot of the time, he gets to know each client’s personal situation, and he tries to “humanize” each case for the court so they don’t get evicted.
“The judges welcome me up to the bench. I’m considered a friend of the court,” he explained.
Overseeing the Agency
As a supervisor, this also means keeping other HASA workers informed on cases and ensuring that cases are being attended to. De Ariaz, a Union Delegate, said that his experience as an active member of SSEU Local 371 has taught him how to manage workers through collaboration and not through micro managing.
“The offices are very cooperative,” he noted.
De Ariaz also coordinates with nonprofits such as Housing Works, the HIV Law Project, the Gay Men’s Health Crisis and others to find services that HASA clients can utilize.
But like many social services, he notes, the job has gotten harder since 2008 when the economy crashed, and more and more people are coming to HASA. He noted that when he arrives at a HASA center the line of potential clients runs out the door.
“You can’t believe the lines,” he said, noting that the increase adds to stress on the job and rising caseloads. “Sometimes you watch it and you’re just like, ‘oh my God.’”
In addition, the agency hasn’t changed that much since 1989, when De Ariaz started, in terms of how much rent money and other benefits it provides to clients. “It has never changed, and look at the cost,” he said. “Food banks are almost gone. All of those other services are not there.”
De Ariaz thrives off making connections with these clients who are in need of help. He says it is warming when he receives letters and cards from the people he has helped.
In addition, he has worked to establish working relationships with judges, which he believes makes a better system for the people he represents each day.
“I have a judge who says, ‘you’re word is gold here,” he said. “That’s not just good for me, but it says to a client, ‘you’re going to get a fair shake here.’”