Video: Beyond Homelessness
October 2, 2011
Last week, Sonja Tyler was one of three Housing Works clients to travel to New Orleans for an international AIDS research and advocacy conference.
Ten years ago, Tyler was working for New York City as a welfare fraud investigator. She'd never touched drugs and thought homelessness was something she only read about in the newspaper.
"Just the fact that I was chosen to come here means a lot for my self esteem personally," she said, speaking from the North American Housing and HIV/AIDS Research Summit. "I feel like I'm getting back to normalcy in my own personal life."
In 2008, Tyler found Housing Works and enrolled in several of our mental and health services. She stopped using drugs, found a community and now volunteers at our Crosby Street location, manning the front desk and helping staff however she can.
While most of Tyler's track marks have healed, all of the emotional wounds have not. Coming to New Orleans, she said, has empowered her, helping her move into a new role: advocate for the homeless.
At the conference, she met with researchers, policymakers and people living with HIV to discuss advocacy strategies for increasing housing opportunities for people living with and at risk of HIV.
This fall, she'll present what she's learned to staff members and clients at Housing Works.
Follow the Update blog on Twitter @housingworks.
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