The 411: Through three pillars of advocacy, lifesaving services and entrepreneurial business, Housing Works puts itself at the forefront of ending the dual crises of homelessness and AIDS.
Living with HIV and AIDS can be difficult on its own, to say the least, but when you don’t have a stable place to call home, that situation becomes even more difficult.
Housing Works is a community of people living with and affected by HIV and AIDS whose mission is to stop both homelessness and AIDS through unwavering public support, the best resources and other innovative organizations.
No matter the place or situation, Housing Works stands up for all people living with HIV and AIDS, particularly those who are marginalized, such as active drug users, homeless people and sexual minorities, and deserve to be included into society.
“Combating shame and stigma around HIV, around sexual identity, around sexuality is really important, especially for some of the marginalized groups in society to be able to successfully combat HIV,” said David Raper, SVP of Business Enterprise. “We think the more people are able to talk about those things and be proud of who they are then that’s going to be good for everyone’s health.”
We spoke with Raper to learn more about Housing Works’ one of a kind services and its wonderful annual event, Design on a Dime.
Keeping with the three vital pillars (advocacy, services and entrepreneurial business), the folks at Housing Works offer a full range of services, including medical and dental care, behavioral health, housing resources and more.
In particular they focus on reaching out to and engaging with gay men, especially young gay men, who may be excluded from receiving services at other organizations or clinics in order to help them get HIV tests and learn about prevention.
Another great aspect of Housing Works is they provide advice on an individual level, so people know they can talk to someone who understands their needs and assist them with their specific problem.
“It’s less tips that might be applicable to everybody and more that there is Housing Works and other organizations out there that can help people who might dealing with risks of HIV, who might be dealing with a diagnosis of HIV or who might be in a situation where they don’t know how to take care of themselves yet as best they can, and reaching out to organizations like Housing Works and getting personalized care is a great first step,” Raper said.
Innovation at every turn
Housing Works has been serving New York state for the past 25 years, and they’ve accomplished a lot in that amount of time, including being the first organization to adopt a harm reduction approach in terms of housing.
While in the past people who were addicted to drugs or alcohol had to get clean before they could gain access to housing, the team at Housing Works knew a stable home was a necessary component of overcoming an addiction.
“We successfully proved for the first time that you could take an approach that was more about harm reduction than abstinence around working with clients to slowly bring issues like drug taking under control, reduce harm and move people on a pathway to being clean, and in that process hold down a stable house, take care of their health and be responsible for their own health and the health of those around them,” Raper said.
But perhaps what Housing Works is most proud of is that a large amount of former clients go on to work for the organization in one way or another once they get settled into their new lives.
“In a way, more than anything else, that is a huge testament to what Housing Works has been able to achieve in terms of building an inclusive community that works,” he said. “Not only are people health-wise and housing-wise in a much better state than when they first engaged in Housing Works, but they actually want to stay and work here and contribute and put their energy back into the endeavor.”
Looking ahead, Housing Works’ ultimate goal is to end AIDS as an epidemic in New York state by 2020, which means getting rates of infections down from thousands a year to hundreds, helping people become aware of their HIV status and recommending the right medications for those who are infected.
And while these may seem like giant goals to some organizations, Housing Works has proved these kinds of goals are attainable thanks to what they’ve done in the past, what they’re doing in the present and what they plan to do in the future, including events like Design on a Dime.
Design on a Dime, which was held April 23, brings the New York design community and 60 of its top interior designers together to create unforgettable room vignettes with new merchandise — from furniture to art to home decor and beyond — which is donated and then sold for 50 to 70 percent off.
Proceeds from the event benefit Housing Works’ newest supportive housing development, the Hull Street Residence, so people can have a great time while supporting a great charity!
To learn more about Housing Works, access its services and support the organization, visit www.housingworks.org.