The devastation of Hurricane Harvey has impacted communities across the Houston area, including the HIV-positive community. Thankfully, small organizations like AIDS Foundation Houston have been hitting the ground to make sure all their needs are met. But there’s still much more to be done.
In light of the disaster, many HIV-positive people are having difficulties accessing their meds due to local clinics and pharmacies being closed down. AFH told Plus it will take a week or so to determine exactly how many of their clients have been misplaced, though they say it might be upwards of 80 people.
AFH runs six housing programs for HIV-positive people who have been chronically homeless or dealt with complex situations that required stabilized housing.
Kelly Young, AFH CEO, confirms that two of these housing programs are scattered site apartments, which means they’re scattered throughout the 660 square mile city. “We won’t know until next week whether they were misplaced or not,” she explains.
As of August 30, one of these scattered site locations is an apartment complex by the airport that closed down due to the hurricane. Most of AFH’s clients in this building reported to have gone to their family or had evacuated, and until they return AFH won’t be able to assess their location. Two other housing programs have mobility issues, and many of the tenants are unable to get in or out of that location. Thankfully the final two housing programs are fine, however most of the grocery stores around their locations are closed, which makes it hard for people to get food and other necessities.
“A full assess probably will not be done by the city until the emergency piece is over, which is our biggest concern,” Young says. “We can end up with a lot of people who are HIV-positive who’ve been misplaced that are going to have a lot of difficulty getting back into housing because there’s going to be a tremendous number of people in the community who need housing [and they’re] going to call organizations like ours to find out their options.”
Organizations like AFH are social service organizations, which means they have to raise “at least 1.3 to 1.5 million dollars a year just to keep us alive,” Young says. “[For] small organizations like us, our fundraising is done for the next three months. It’s all going to go to relief efforts.”
Currently, AFH is coordinating with the City of Houston, Coalition for the Homeless and the Houston Food Bank on trying to find HIV-positive people who have been displaced from their homes and are seeking emergency shelter, food and other basic needs. Volunteers like Young have been working nonstop, delivering basic goods (on road and on boat) — from diapers, blankets, and food — to those who have no way of gathering them.
“HIV-positive [people] who run into financial problems, housing problems, or issues with medications, they’re going to call us and we’re going to have to serve them, and we’re going to want to serve them. We’re their home,” Young says. “Donations that come to small organizations like ours are really helpful right now. We’re working across the city to make sure everyone gets their needs met.”
Despite the limitations, Young assures that businesses and state officials are working hard for HIV-positive people’s needs. “Walgreens is working really hard to keep their HIV care centers open,” she says. “The state is working to make sure that Ryan White individuals will be able to access services in Dallas or Austin.”
Young also suggests for HIV-positive people to switch to mail orders like the Louisiana-based pharmacy Avita. That way, meds can be mailed in so you don’t have to worry about resupplying. Seeing there are many non-profits closed this week, it will be hard to reach out.
“Check whatever clinics you normally use, sometimes they are open,” Young says to HIV-positive people living in Houston who might be running low on meds. “They can direct you to the closest clinic, or contact the Houston Health Department. Contacting 311 or 911 is not a good bet. You can certainly call AFH starting next week, and we can support and walk you through your needs.”
Walgreens has a list of all the open clinics Houston.
Those who would like to offer financial assistance to AIDS Foundation Houston clients impacted by the storm should click HERE
All donations given to AIDS Foundation Houston go directly to the needs of people living with HIV. The most immediate need is funding for anticipated building repairs. For those who have been wondering the best way to donate money towards relief efforts, Young suggests to donate locally — for small organizations making a direct impact on the community, and are on the ground doing the work.
“If you’re interested in working with LGBT homeless youth, send money to that organization. They’re going to need it, just like we’re going to need ours,” she says. “Make sure you care for people locally.”
The regular AHF office at 6260 Westpark Drive will be closed for the rest of the week, and will reopen Tuesday, September 5, where it will be a need for ready-to-eat food to restock Stone Soup, a food pantry catering to HIV-positive individuals and their families, as well as other services.