A Lone Activist Survives an Urban Shelter System>As told to Suzy Subways | cliffwms44's Blog
An HIV positive homeless activist talks about life inside city shelters, being kicked out of one for his activism, and delaying HIV treament because he's homeless.
The shelters are like a warehouse for men. Guys who to work have to fill out a "late return." And you can fill out the paperwork, but if the person on duty doesn't put it in the proper place, you lose your bed. While I was living in another shelter, I finished and HIV treatment education class at a local AIDS service organization and completed a building maintenance class, but it was very hard for me- that and keeping my doctor's appointment, because I'm HIV positive.
The people who work at the shelters put everbody in a classification that comes from Narcotics Anonymous-that you can't manage your life so somebody has to do it for you. "You're here, so you must have a problem. We're gonna strip you down and build you back up, and we 're gonna make you the man that you couldn't be. "They treat you like you're on drugs, even if the problem is just that you're having trouble with your wife, and you have a home,if you could just patch things up. People might have mental health problems,you might have HIV, or have had a disaster, like a fire. But I'm 45 years old - you can't strip me.
I thinks people who work in this capacity need to listen. I would let people express themselves, and I think I would get a better response. Rather than "shut up, let me tell you what I want you to do. "They provoke people. A guy could come there and be at his exceeding limits, and they're not trained to notice anything like that. Something could trigger him,and he goes into a rage. I''ve seen suicides in the shelters.
Getting Kicked Out for Activism
They want to manage your money. You use the shelter's address, and you can get your welfare benefits. You pay shelter fees, and then you put most of the rest of the money into a savings plan. A few months ago, I needed carfare to go be with my wife, but they said I had to pay those shelter fees or they were going to kick me out. My wife has cancer. I felt that saving money would mean nothing if my wife was to pass away.
I had to involve some higher-ups,so I talked to a gentleman at my city coucilperson's office. After that, it seemed like I was on a blacklist. Two people (staff) the next day were badgering me. They come around in the mornings and say, "get out of bed." I was getting dressed, and one woman said, "I better not say nothing to him, because he's going to tell the politicians on me." I didn't say anything back.
The day I had a colonoscopy, I went back to the shelter and they had cut my locks, packed up everything and had it in a big tub, and said, "You're out of here. " A person comes into the shelter with all they may own, their worldly possessions. And I said, "Look, I've got this note from my doctor, I need rest," but they kicked me out. I had to lift my belongings. They said, "We feel that you'd be better suited somewhre else. "the present place I'm at, It's cold as ice. It's a gymnasium. This is just for the winter initiative- It's going to dissolve at the end of the month.
Living with HIV in the Shelters
I'm putting off going on HIV medication because I'm in a shelter. At this point, my CD4 count is getting pretty low.
Every month, my care providers says, You're going to have to go on it either way, but I think we could hold off." The problem is, if I started a regimen and wasn't consistent with taking it, I'd have to start on something else. I was repremanded for keeping my depression medication in my locker. They hold your medications. One time, I said "Miss, I really need my medication. " She got on the phone, and it seemed like a personal phone call. Then she says, "Okay, okay, in a minute. I forgot about you, wait til I come back. So I went out the door, because I had to make and appointment. Had I been on HIV meds, I probably would have blown my regimen. See,that would aide in you forgetting to take your medicine at all.
Some times my medication has been stolen, and we would suspect by the staff, because they had access to it . Most of the staff are ex-addicts. They forget where they come from and return back to where they were, in their state of mind. I was told that certain meds go for $5per pill. One time, at another shelter, I came down with scarlet fever and went to the hospital. When I got back, I never got my medication back. It was like the second or third time, and the Medicaid HMO wouldn't replace it. Had I been on HIV meds, that would have messed me up. It's not made for a person who has to adhere to taking their meds on the regular.
There's so much unprofessionalism. It's a shame. I'm trying to protect my anonymity, because nothing's confidential in the shelter. People sometimes are caring, but you've got some people that are just plain old mean. If their way to hurt somebody is to let their business out, then they'll do that. That could crush somebody. These people that work there, they gossip. And you could be sitting right there and overhear what they say about people. When you take your meds, the way it's supposed to be, is that only one person is allowed in the room, so nobody knows what you're taking, but it's not like that. People are standing right there. I don't even think they go by HIPPAA (patient confidentiality) laws.
They didn't try to gear me to any programs for people living with HIV. As a matter of fact, I took one of the HIV resource guides to my case manager, but I just got the feeling that she took it and put it under somewhere. After that, I felt like the other case managers knew my status.
There was a guy - I haven't seen him - I think he passed, just maybe a few weeks ago. His name was Jerome, and I think the guys looked out for him pretty good. That really hit me close to the heart, because I'm HIV positive, and I would guess that he was at a really bad stage of the AIDS. A shelter like that is no place for a person like that. He was so frail you had to help him get dressed. I dream about the magnitude of this thing, and it gets me really choked up that people have to suffer like that.
Solidarity and Organizing Among Homeless People
People become homeless, and at that time, the barriers drop and we come together and help each other. It's amazing. You really need a belt, and a guy takes the belt off his waist if you've got an interview or something. It's not the shelter giving you clothes- it's other guys giving you clothes. It feels good when guys in the shelter say, How's your wife doing? Is she getting around alright?" These are guys that , if you looked at them, you'd never think they had it in them like that- big, tough guys. You're still alive.
Most of the shelters, they're going to be making them leave soon, because they're in a family section and nobody wants to see homeless people. This is the next thing that's coming up. They're refurbishing and old hotel to make condominiums around the corner from one of them, so that shelter's not going to be there in a couple of years.
During the mayoral election, I went out with a local advocacy group and got peple to vote. We had a homeless rally at City Hall, got the cadidates to come out, and shot some questions at them. The only idea they had was transitional housing. If it's privately run, that's like a slumlord. Your're going from living with a bunch of men to living with fewer men. If you had your own little room, in a sense you'd have your self again. In order for people to take care of themselves mentally and physically,be nourished, take their medicine, you name it, every person should have a home. That's just one of your rights.
I've got to be with my wife. I want to have my granddaughters over and play with them on the floor. Without all that, I'm like this fourth class citizen. I have no sense of belonging, in a place that gets paid for me to sign my name, but I can't stand in front of the building. They say, "Go walk down the street." Well all of us stay here. But it's like I'm some kind of protester when I open my mouth. Because I knew enough to go and see somebody, they were like, " Oh, we don't want him, because if what he's got is catching, we'll be in real trouble. " But that's what they need. You can't be a lone activist and have some punch.
There are no comments on this post yet, be the first to leave one!
Previous PostsGlobal Pandemic HIV/AIDS, posted July 10th, 2013
STIGMA IS BOTH INWARD AND OUTWARDLY IMPOSED, posted June 19th, 2013
The what about men and women HIV/AIDS and STI's., posted June 14th, 2013
RYAN WHITE ELIGIBILITY CARD, posted June 14th, 2013, 1 comment
AIDS WON'T KILL YOU,OTHER ILLNESS WILL, posted May 18th, 2013
Is There Balm In Gilead, posted May 11th, 2013
Experience of the African to American Orphan, posted April 23rd, 2013
How can you take a stand and apply Dr. Kings Philosophy to promote non-violence with your community, posted January 22nd, 2013, 2 comments
Philadelphia school District, is Warehousing young minds., posted January 20th, 2013
Power In Direct Action, posted January 17th, 2013, 1 comment
Prevention is a top priority, posted January 11th, 2013, 2 comments
The Body is the Garden of Eden, posted December 26th, 2012, 1 comment
WALKING IN THE GARDEN, posted December 22nd, 2012
Todays America, posted December 22nd, 2012
The Whole World Talks about getting to zero, posted December 21st, 2012
A Lone Activist Survives an Urban Shelter System>As told to Suzy Subways, posted December 11th, 2012
National HIV/AIDS strategy, will it be good for people infected or not?, posted December 10th, 2012
World AIDS Day 2012 in the war to end AIDS standing in the trenches., posted November 30th, 2012
Can an event in history happen in Repetition?, posted October 2nd, 2012
Willie Lych>Sydrome, posted August 18th, 2012
Two Generals, posted August 17th, 2012
YOU KNOW WE CAN END AIDS, posted August 15th, 2012
The realities of General assistance cash cuts., posted August 8th, 2012
My experience with the AIDS HEALTH CARE FOUNDATION'S Keep the Promise march 2012, posted July 26th, 2012
IN THE SPIRIT OF EMPATHY, posted July 9th, 2012
CLARITY IS CRYSTLE CLEAR, posted July 3rd, 2012
OUR YOUTH IN CRISIS, posted July 2nd, 2012
The Road to a cure., posted June 11th, 2012
Separating the myth from the misinformation-KILLING STIGMA, posted May 22nd, 2012
Exposure to the son prevents Burning, posted February 20th, 2012
The Celebrity Garden, posted February 18th, 2012
Growing In Wisdom, posted February 18th, 2012
BLACK HISTORY, posted February 9th, 2012, 2 comments
HIV/AIDS A MESSAGE FROM THE IMPAIRED TO THE UNIMPAIRED, posted January 28th, 2012, 1 comment
OCCUPY THE DREAM, posted January 15th, 2012
Venting to heal the broken heart., posted December 29th, 2011, 1 comment
The Prodigal Son, posted December 11th, 2011
Homelessness and HIV/AIDS, posted December 8th, 2011
Drawing in the sands of time, posted December 2nd, 2011
The Evolution Of Captivity, posted November 27th, 2011
Resources>Jesus Feeds 5,000 People, posted October 15th, 2011
Love Departs, posted October 14th, 2011, 2 comments
The drama continues, posted October 11th, 2011
Listening and Doing, posted October 9th, 2011
The Whole World is Lost, posted October 7th, 2011
The Spirit Of Activism #2010, posted September 22nd, 2011
The Flip side of sin, posted September 4th, 2011
Why I still fight>Taken from a pioneer in Activism Vito Russo (by cliffwms44), posted August 12th, 2011
What is LGV-Lymphogranuloma, posted July 28th, 2011
HIV IS EXCEPTIONAL, posted July 12th, 2011
BlogrollHere are some friends' blogs...
HelpEmbed Photos Embed Videos
Caption of the Day
A fun new caption image each day. Winners get trophies and points.
Play and Vote Now!