Massachusetts: Center Nurtures Those Living With HIV
December 29, 2010
Tucked into a corner of the posh Back Bay neighborhood is the Boston Living Center, a walk-in support organization for people living with HIV. Though the surrounding area is "high-rent," and "we're a little low rent," "the neighborhood embraces us," said BLC's volunteer coordinator, Lisa Brown.
BLC opened in 1989. It currently serves 1,600 clients, providing mental health support, meals, therapy sessions, and services such as massages and haircuts -- all free of charge. "When the center opened, many people couldn't get services like massages and haircuts," said Brown, noting the fear and stigma attached to the virus at the time. "Today, the difference is that many living with HIV are economically disenfranchised."
Some 54 percent of BLC's clients are either black or Latino, nearly half live below the poverty line, and 40 percent are homeless or without stable housing, according to the group's website. "There is huge diversity in ethnicity, gender, sexual identity," Brown said of BLC's demographics. "It's equalizing that everyone is living with HIV."
Around 70 percent of the center's budget comes from federal Ryan White funds. Volunteers help allow BLC to offer its comprehensive programs. Many are former clients, such as Maribel Martinez-Algria. "Today, I love life, thanks to the Boston Living Center," said Martinez-Algria, who volunteers as a peer leader three to four days a week. "There's hope. Every day I feel a lot of gratitude." The center, she said, has become a "second home."
12.27.2010; Roy Greene
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