From Boulevard of Broken Dreams to House of H.O.P.E. (Housing, Opportunity, Prevention, Empowerment)

Public health aficionados love to throw around the term, “Housing as prevention!” but what does that really mean? Most of us in the field have some form of shelter to go to at the end of our 10+ hour days. Whatever form it may present itself; a warm apartment, an amazing industrial loft or a cozy bungalow. We have a place to kick off our shoes and relax our feet, soak them in some Epsom salt while lavender candles burn in the background depending on what type of day you had. 

Often times, we forget that a house is more than a roof with four walls some doors and windows or a state of mind. A house must initially begin with an established foundation to support the structures that are built atop of it. If my foundation is unhinged due to cracks or in some extreme cases, my foundation doesn’t exist at all; I am more susceptible to a myriad of issues including expensive repairs or a crumbling structure.

BP Pic 3According to the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, at least 13,790 people were considered homeless in the state of Georgia in January 2015. The City of Atlanta was “home” to 4,317 of those reported as homeless; 24% of those braved the cold in an unsheltered state, while the other 76% were lucky enough to reside in Emergency or Transitional Housing facilities. Poverty was the unifying condition for essentially all of Georgia’s homeless population. Other factors that place many people at risk for homelessness include physical disability or chronic medical problems, family violence, mental illness and substance abuse. Substance abusers are the most vulnerable people affected by homelessness, accounting for almost 20%.

Now for the translation…homelessness is a psychosocial, socioeconomic and health concept that affects EVERY ONE OF US! For those fortunate enough to live in midtown and you walk out of your house to see the collective of individuals standing on Piedmont, whose mere presence you constantly gripe about…homeless. That friend of yours who comes over more frequently than not and sleeps on your couch and you can’t remember the last time they invited you over…probably homeless. For those who wonder why incarceration and STD rates continue to rise…these happen to be both consequences and causes of chronic HOMELESSNESS.

Gerald’s House, formerly AESM House opened its doors in 1994. The housing program had the objective of stable housing for men living with HIV/AIDS, who were also homeless or living in less BP Picthan desirable conditions. Gerald’s House provided a stable environment to increase my medication adherence because I knew I had a place to lay my head and proper places to store my medication. You were provided an address to put on applications, improving the likelihood that you would get a job, obtain insurance and eat. We all know the Medicaid and food stamp folk love to send correspondence via snail mail. Gerald’s House also laid the foundation for our underlying mental health and substance issues to be addressed because one of our biggest problems was addressed; a safe place to lay our heads. Today, the Gerald’s House Initiative continues to provide the same comprehensive, affordable and secure housing options since its commencement. Residents of the program have the advantage of utilizing the onsite supportive services to escalate their self-sufficiency. These FREE services include non-medical case management, mental health and substance abuse counseling, peer support, job training and housing activities.

Additionally, through the Gerald’s House Initiative there are now financial assistance programs available to assist those transitioning into permanent housing solutions. The Deposit Assistance Program (DAP) assists PLWHA cover the costs of either the initial deposit or the first month’s rent for home sweet home. The Short Term Rental, Mortgage and Utility (STRMU) Assistance Program covers the aforementioned expenses for a period of up to 21 weeks in a 52 week period. Individuals qualifying for STRMU assistance must currently be housed and demonstrate that the absence of assistance will result in homelessness. 

Housing assistance is a powerful and cost effective way to improve health outcomes and prevent the onset of illness. More than 250 men and women have called Gerald’s House “home” or benefitted from its supplementary services. If your house is not a home, please take our quick assessment to see if you qualify for assistance.

Or if you would like to donate to the Gerald’s House Initiative or any of our robust services, contact me at 404 691 8880 ext 25.

#NAESM2016 #liveit #beit #ownit #goodtogreat #prevention

D’Metris W. – Grants & Events Specialist

NSPIRE – A NAESM Initiative!


Atlanta, Georgia, April 6, 2016 – NAESM’s Department of Prevention and Support Services would like to announce NSPIRE, an all-new program to help aid newly diagnosed, HIV positive young men who have sex with men (YMSM). NSPIRE (Necessary Support to Prevent, Intervene, Reduce and Eliminate HIV-related Health Inequities) is one of NAESM’s responses to the HIV lifetime risk data that was released at CROI 2016. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, if current HIV diagnoses rates continue, about 1 in 2 black men who have sex with men in the United States will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime. For NAESM’s Executive Director, Darwin Thompson, this served as a wakeup call but also an opportunity to redesign and implement targeted HIV prevention programs to ensure NAESM is during our part to help reduce lifetime risk.

“1 in 2 black men who have sex with men will be diagnosed with HIV during their lifetime is disheartening but is absolutely preventable. We currently have viable options to help prevent infections which include effective strategies like Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) and Treatment as Prevention (TasP). To support those strategies in the fight against new infections we have structured a program for young men who have sex with men to make sure they’re making healthier and more informed decisions in response to the lifetime HIV risk data presented by the CDC. In addition to this program, as an organization we must continue to have a concentrated focus on YMSM 18-24 years old as they remain the face of the HIV epidemic.” expressed Thompson.

NSPIRE is intended to: assess, acknowledge, and address systematic, structural, personal (emotional, spiritual, physical, familial, mental and/or literacy) and social factors that serve and or may serve as barriers to viral suppression. NSPIRE will stand true to its mission, to connect newly diagnosed HIV positive YMSM between 18-24 years of age with supportive mentors to help them on their road to viral suppression. While the core of this program will focus on viral suppression, mentors will be tasked with working with their mentees to address and achieve other life goals as well.

The mission of NAESM is to provide national and local leadership to address the myriad of health and wellness issues confronted by black gay men through advocacy, services, and education. NAESM, Inc. was created in an effort to counteract the ever increasing spread of HIV/AIDS in communities of color with a focus on black gay men. NSPIRE was made possible by generous support from Janssen Therapeutics and the Atlanta AIDS Partnership Fund.


If you have any questions about NSPIRE or are interested in becoming a mentor,

feel free to contact Damon Johnson at (404) 691-8880 [ext. 46] or by email at