If You Lived Here: HIV and Housing -- Homes for Hope, Part One
By Candace Y.A. Montague
February 28, 2011
In this third entry to the series, we learn about Dr. Veronica Jenkins a medical professional who wanted to provide housing for her HIV positive patients. She hoped that housing would save lives. She did not count on financial obstacles and government red tape getting in the way.
Dr. Veronica Jenkins, an internist in Southeast, was just an ordinary doctor seeing patients while working for an HMO in the late nineteen eighties. She wasn't allowed to treat patients with HIV/AIDS because it was considered an infectious disease and therefore, not her specialty. A close friend suggested that she volunteer at Family Medical Counseling Services in 1996. Her interest in treating HIV positive patients grew from there and she left the HMO to practice full time at Family Medical. For a time, she kept hearing from patients that they were not able to adhere to their medications because they had nowhere to live. Dr. Jenkins recalled that she decided to do something about it and thus Homes for Hope was born. She was not prepared for the obstacles that would come her way.
Dr. Jenkins had a vision of providing emergency and transitional housing for her patients as well as case management to help them ultimately move into independent living. She found four buildings with one to two bedroom units in them not far from Minnesota Ave, right on a Metro bus route. After renovation, obtaining proper licenses for operation and becoming incorporated, she moved her first few patients into the units. Next was a case management office set up within one of the units. She eventually would add a few basic job training classes for the residents in the evening. Dr. Jenkins said, "This was a plan built on passion but without the business sense to go with it. A passion without a plan is a disaster."
Then came the issues that caused the progress of Homes for Hope to stall. There were problems with liability insurance, fire insurance, the license, a $14,000 property tax, and a 20-year-old water bill for two of the buildings. "We were overwhelmed." She applied for and won a grant through the Department of Housing and Community Development in 2005. "We were so happy because now we could do things and help people the way we wanted."
Yet it took another five years for the grant to trickle through proper channels. Why such a long wait? A spokesperson from the DC Department of Housing and Community Development stated "The project, located in SE Washington, was ready for funding in 2007. However, it was not prioritized for funding at the time due to dwindling financial resources faced by the Department, a challenge that still very much exists today. We have been working with Dr. Jenkins to update the construction costs and overall plan to ensure that the project is ready to move forward when funding is available. We will be using stimulus funding to help support projects in the new HIV/AIDS Housing Initiative. The infusion of stimulus funding is allowing the Department to provide funding to projects that were previously stalled because of a lack of available resources."
In part two, we learn about what happened when Dr. Jenkins sought help from members of the DC Council.
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Candace Y.A. Montague
Candace Y.A. Montague has been learning about HIV since 1988 (and she has the certificates from the American Red Cross to prove it). Health is a high priority to Candace because she believes that nothing can come of your life if you're not healthy enough to enjoy it. One of her two master's degrees is in Community Health Promotion and Education. Candace was inspired to act against HIV after seeing a documentary in 2008 about African-American women and HIV. She knew that writing was the best way for her to make a difference and help inform others. Candace is a native Washingtonian and covers HIV news all around D.C. She has covered fundraisers, motorcycle rides, town hall meetings, house balls, Capitol Hill press conferences, election campaigns and protests for The DC Examiner.com and emPower News Magazine.
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