May 11, 2010
The ATL is pretty, but you won't find much affordable housing.
A fierce advocate who has served on Atlanta's Ryan White Planning Council and numerous boards of directors, Ford has spent the last 11 days sleeping outside.
Ford found himself homeless this month after his voucher for two months of emergency housing following a bout of pneumonia expired. The friend he had been staying with before he became ill with pneumonia had moved. Ford, who has AIDS, prostate cancer and neuropathy that leaves him wheelchair-bound, has nowhere to turn.
He slept in his wheelchair on the disabled-access ramp of the nonprofit AID Atlanta Sunday night. A local church allowed him to charge his electric wheelchair in their outlet, but did not give him a place to stay. He eats at AID Atlanta during the day, but has nowhere to go at night.
The Update broke the news about Patrick on Monday, prompting governmental action: Ford was contacted this week by staffers at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. They are working with his case manager to find him temporary housing.
Atlanta's housing for poor people with HIV/AIDS -- and affordable housing in general -- is notoriously scarce. Atlanta has no options for harm reduction housing, requiring residents to stay sober to be housed. In 2008, the last year information for which information is available, the entire 28-county Atlanta eligible metropolitan area received $7 million in funding for such services and has 2.5 staffers to provide housing subsidy assistance, supportive services, and housing placement assistance to about 3,000 households. In addition, there are no options for harm reduction housing, requiring people to be sober before they can be housed.
Ford is tapped into Atlanta's AIDS care system and is on a waiting list for housing at the Living Room. The Living Room is a nonprofit that refers people to permanent housing for people with HIV/AIDS through the federal AIDS housing program, Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA).
"Everyone says 'Go to the Living Room.' That shouldn't be the only option. We've been trying to get it changed for years."
His homelessness has brought him humiliation and despair. "I soiled myself and sat that way for eight hours yesterday," Ford told the Update.
Ford's journey through Atlanta's housing options hasn't always been smooth. He has been forced to leave programs for not following the rules and he left one voluntarily. However, Ford makes no apologies for rubbing some people the wrong way over the years (including being removed from the Ryan White Planning Council in 2005). But he said that he has to be brash, because he is fighting for his life.
"People say, 'Patrick just wants to make noise. I'm trying to look out for me and someone else that's coming up behind me," he said.