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