Housing crisis intensifies for people with AIDS Baltimore-area panel formed to develop 10-year strategy

June 01, 1993|By Holly Selby | Holly Selby,Staff Writer

As a man who has had AIDS for 10 years, David Horner knows well that people infected with the disease can find themselves unable to work, unable to afford their homes, unable to find new lodgings and, sometimes, unable to find a place to die.

Five years ago, after becoming too ill to work and for a time rejected by his family, the former Washington job search counselor lost his home.

Now the director of the Black Educational AIDS Project of Baltimore, Mr. Horner sits on a metropolitan-area panel recently created by thecity housing department to develop ways of preventing others from being caught in the same downward spiral.

One of several initiatives in the area, the panel is part of an effort to develop a 10-year strategy for dealing with what public health officials, AIDS activists and community leaders view as a rapidly growing housing crisis.

Faced with increasing numbers of people who are too sick to work and too poor to afford a home, city officials two weeks ago began accepting proposals from nonprofit organizations on how to develop such a strategy.

The 10-year plan will address the needs of people with acquired immune deficiency syndrome in Baltimore and in Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties -- a jurisdiction drawn by the federal government for funding purposes, says Donna Poggi Keck, special projects coordinator in the city department of housing.

Money to develop the plan comes from $447,000 granted the Baltimore jurisdiction last year by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development under the Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS Act (HOPWA). An additional $1.1 million will be available next year for AIDS-related services in the area.

About $57,000 was earmarked to create the 10-year plan, while most of the remaining money goes to a rental assistance program for people with AIDS. Eighty to 100 area residents receive subsidies, Ms. Keck says.

Baltimore and the two counties are the only jurisdictions in Maryland to receive this HUD funding, which was based on numbers of AIDS cases, she says. Because of the high incidence of AIDS in Baltimore, the city receives about 80 percent of the grant.

Meanwhile, other plans are being made to supplement the assistance that local hospitals and hospices give to people with AIDS. For example:

* A strategic planning committee, part of the mayor's AIDS coordinating council, met for the first time last week to design a 3- to 5-year plan for addressing housing and other needs of people with AIDS.

* A coalition of housing, medical and service professionals, called the Housing Unlimited Group (HUG), plans next year to open group facilities for 13 women and nine men in Baltimore. Funding is through a $1.2 million Shelter Plus Grant, a federal program administered by the Mayor's Office of Homeless Services. That money will be paid over the next five years.

* HUG also expects to subsidize 10 city apartments with money from the same Shelter Plus Grant.

* The AIDS Interfaith Residential Services, which operates a five-person group home in North Baltimore, recently received $716,000 from HUD to purchase and renovate four dwellings to house 14 people with AIDS.

However, the need for housing outstrips these programs, say local health care professionals, service providers and AIDS activists.

Families in need

"We are nowhere close to being where we need to be" on housing, says Brenda Pridgen, city AIDS coordinator. "We are talking about men, women and children. Actually, we are talking about families.

"These people are saying, 'I need not just AZT, I need housing.' " (AZT is an FDA-approved anti-viral drug used by people who have AIDS.)

There are 1,402 people with AIDS in Baltimore and the surrounding five counties. Still more people are infected with the human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS, but go uncounted because only AIDS cases are tracked by health agencies.

Although exact figures on housing aren't available, the National Commission on AIDS estimated last year that up to half of all Americans with AIDS are homeless and up to 15 percent of all homeless people are infected with HIV.

In 1991, members of HUG informally surveyed 1,850 Baltimore residents who have AIDS or HIV, finding that 43 percent said they were homeless or in precarious housing situations, says Douglas Garriott, an architect and president of HUG.

But providing appropriate housing for the AIDS population is fraught with complications. Indeed, increasing percentages of those infected with AIDS are already poor or are substance abusers.

The virus itself is complex -- progressing slowly or quickly and manifesting itself physically or mentally.

Many options needed

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