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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.

Then she lost her job, and soon, her apartment, and she found herself in a position she'd never imagined: Cycling between homeless shelters, friends' sofas and a sleeping bag in Fort Greene park. Lost and depressed, she also turned to drugs.

"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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This article was provided by Housing Works. It is a part of the publication Housing Works AIDS Issues Update. Visit Housing Works' website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
See Also
Housing and HIV Prevention/Treatment

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