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AIDS, HIV Disease, News, Opinion, Personal, Volunteer

Clare Housing: Partners in AIDS Care

Clare HousingIn 2013, Ashley and I have been rather busy. Between her photography business (Ash & James Photography) keeping her hard at it from sun up ‘til sun down, 7 days a week, wedding planning for us (May 31, 2014, save the date!), and me working, marathon training and pursuing a doctorate, all while making sure we have enough time for fun and adventure, it has been one of the busiest times for us to date. Nonetheless, we push on, and make sure that the spare time we have is contributing towards something meaningful—whatever that may be.

This blog post comes at a deliberate time: the holidays—a time for family and friends, fun, eating, drinking and giving.

The holiday season is a special time for many reasons. In addition to reuniting with friends, family, and drinking brandy with the folks while conversing about the world and being all philosophical-like, it’s also a time when people think more about others. At least, more than they normally would otherwise, in, let’s say, July.

I am not certain why there’s such an influx of giving and volunteering around the holidays, and to be honest, I’ve never thought about it before, but it probably has something to do with one’s own self-reflection, and a chance to finally do something good before the year’s up.

With Thanksgiving in sight, people reflect more on what they have and “give thanks”. One can just look at the November “Today I am thankful for…” Facebook posts to get a real sense of peoples’ own self-reflection. Consequently, all this reflecting causes one to realize that his/her own life is not terrible, and, in fact, could very well be worse. I think somewhere between November 1st and 30th when he/she is giving thanks for their big screen HD TV and shows like Scandal, it hits them, “wait, not everyone has a home, a family, food or even basic cable?! Well, I must do something about this nonsense.” Perhaps that’s what drives people to volunteer so much over the holiday season. In fact, it’s not uncommon for people to get turned away from highly rewarding volunteer opportunities over the holidays because they’re too full of volunteers as it is. Not a bad problem to have, but where are these people in July when hunger relief organizations are shorthanded? Anyway, maybe that’s best saved for another post.

This post is about Clare Housing and the work that they do, and how they positively impact the community. It’s also the place where Ashley and I have been volunteering at these past six months.

Before we discuss Clare Housing, let us continue on the self-reflection road a bit. Most likely everyone reading this post will have a roof over their head, food in their stomachs, and an education of some sort to boot, at least; essentially the basic building blocks to a decent life. Knowing this has led me to think about my place in this world and how I should contribute to its betterment. Because my life is above satisfactory by most standards, what should I do? Did I win this game? Should I coast until 55, and then cash in my investments and retirements accounts, coast another 20-30 years, then die having lived the standard? The answer for me, for us, always projects itself clearly—we take our highly capable and motivated selves and use it to ameliorate the human situation to the highest possible degree. In other words, we live to make better.

This brings me to Clare Housing.

Human immunodeficiency virus and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) impacts millions throughout the world. In fact, the Center for Disease Control estimates that more than one million people are living with HIV in the United States. Since 1981, more than 619,000 people have died here within our borders. HIV disease, since it was first clinically observed in 1981, has been a global pandemic. It‘s now 32 years later and HIV disease still kills, still continues to be expensive to treat, and still comes with a stigma attached to those infected.

Clare Housing addresses all of these issues and more.

Simply put, Clare Housing provides affordable housing, supportive services and compassionate care to people living with HIV/AIDS in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. As a result, individuals with the disease are able to lead satisfying and dignified lives.

Clare Housing provides an array of support to about 150 HIV positive individuals (and counting), many of whom were formerly homeless, including 10 families.

On my first day volunteering, during the orientation, I learned more about HIV disease than I have ever learned from books or other sources in the past. As a result, it shed more light on the struggles those infected face on a day-to-day basis. Truthfully, to say that they struggle is an understatement. During the volunteer orientation and in meeting some of the staff and its residents, I saw a very real glimpse into their lives.

Imagine having the following difficulties:

- You‘re homeless.

- You have HIV.

- You do not have insurance.

- You do not have $4,000~ a month to cover the cost of medication. If you do have the medication, you do not have a refrigerator to keep it cool, as some of the meds need to be.

- You do not have money for food, with which some of the medications need to be taken.

- You do not have easy access to bathroom facilities as many of the meds leaves one with serious digestive issues.

- You do not have a permanent address for doctors to continuously prescribe the medication, as is usually required, so you can’t get the medication.

The requirements of taking the medication itself can be a hurdle. Medication needs to be taken on a regular schedule and at set times to avoid problematic side effects or withdrawal symptoms. Some have to take 30-40 pills a day. The magnitude of the treatment schedule would be challenging to even those with the most regular-paced, predictable life. I also learned that many residence, because of the disease and medication they take, have to watch what they eat; dietary restrictions to the max. Ever heard of a single tater tot stopping a heart? Neither have I, until I started volunteering here. Ashley and I bring our residence home-cooked meals and we’re finding it really challenging to find things that they can eat. This is why Clare Housing is so necessary. They help their residents manage these obstacles and receive the treatment they need.

According to the Clare Housing website, 7,000 people in Minnesota are living with HIV/AIDS. Fifty percent of them will be homeless or have a housing crisis during the course of their illness. The situation is so dire that they even have a waiting list of 200 people in need of a home right now.

To address the critical need crises, Clare Housing has developed three resident-focused supportive housing options:

- Community-based Care Homes

- Supportive House

- Scattered-Site Affordable Housing

The care required varies widely but typically include rehabilitation support, end of life care and affordable housing and rental assistance. Additional support includes, nursing care, medication administration, hands on assistance with activities of daily living, and help with building independent living skills.

By giving people a place to call home, being compassionate and providing excellent care, Clare Housing is critically important for its‘ residents and the community in which they reside.

In addition to providing these supportive services, they also aim to spread awareness in hopes of erasing the stigma attached to the HIV disease. They‘re people, just like you and me, and the more the populace understands that, the better off everyone will be.

For additional information on Clare Housing, please click here. They would love to hear from you!

Thank you!

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