Like so many people, I have been rushing around trying to get all the last minute things done for the holidays. This time of year is filled with planning so that we can enjoy time with our friends and family. Many of us will either travel or host people in our home, and if you are like me there is nothing more nurturing and reassuring than knowing I will have this time to unplug in the safety of my family's home.
While we celebrate in our homes this holiday season, I want to share with everyone that when people come to Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC) housing is the most requested service. Far too many people living with HIV and AIDS in New York City, and around the country, are either living in shelters or couch surfing. There is never a good time to be without shelter. As studies have proven, when homeless people with HIV are placed in stable housing, they are twice as likely to consistently take their medications and have undetectable viral loads after 12 months. Additionally, the National AIDS Housing Coalition said, "...placement in supportive housing reduced AIDS mortality among homeless persons by 80% over five years."
GMHC is here to help those who need a home and every day we work hard to connect people living with HIV and AIDS to much-needed housing. While there is still so much more work to do, I wanted to share how GMHC helped make sure that one of our clients had a home for the holidays.
Jay* came to GMHC because he had no place else to go. After being fired from his job at a bank, Jay who is living with AIDS began living in his car. For weeks, he lived in his car until one day it was repossessed. Once at GMHC, he was assigned a case manager who immediately recognized that Jay qualified for city assistance with housing. Jay was assigned to a temporary single-room occupancy residence, and sadly he experienced what so many do when put in this living situation. Other residents robbed, beat, drugged and raped Jay. I personally learned what happened to him when I met him in our dining room and realized my team and I had to do what we could to get him better and permanent housing. After working with his case manager, we helped Jay look at apartments and gratefully the following week he signed a lease on his own apartment. Now, Jay is both safe and healthy in his new home.
While this is Jay's story, it is not unlike other stories of people who have desperately needed assistance with housing. As HIV advocates and Governor Cuomo work to end the epidemic by 2020, everyone has to understand how critical stable housing will be to ending the epidemic. If you are couch surfing or sleeping on the street, no message about getting tested for HIV or telling someone to practice safer-sex will resonate because all anyone can think about if they are homeless is finding a home. In order to end the epidemic, we must address key structural drivers to the epidemic like homelessness. If you know someone in need of housing, HIV testing, a hot meal, legal services or any other service GMHC offers, please have them reach contact our hotline at 800-243-7692, which happens to be our oldest service.
* To ensure client confidentiality, the name mentioned in this post is not the actual client name.