The residents at the San Antonio AIDS Foundation are there for skilled nursing care and still in many cases, hospice. But as the disease has changed with earlier detection and new drug regimens, so has SAAF’s mission, which includes outpatient care, prevention and education, and mobile testing. And a few blocks from SAAF’s Grayson Street headquarters, the organization operates Carson House, a transitional residence for homeless HIV-positive individuals.
“These are the healthier HIV patients,” says SAAF Executive Director David Ewell, but they have no place to live and often come with heavy baggage: addiction, poor or no work history, criminal records, mental-health issues. The program’s goal is to enable residents to move into their own homes by helping them save money, budget expenses and get jobs or Supplemental Security Income for disabled adults.
“Nobody judges here,” Regina Villalobos, SAAF marketing director, says. “That makes anybody feel good.”
Residents must sign a contract and are allowed to stay only 90 days—once discharged, they can’t return for at least a month. While they live at Carson House, they can eat three meals a day at SAAF and use other onsite services. Case workers visit regularly, and nursing staff are just around the corner.
SAAF also runs a tenant rental-assistance program through the City of San Antonio, which can provide up to 30 months of financial support while a former Carson House resident is building a new life.
The doors lock at 9 p.m. each night, and drugs are not allowed on the property. The residents are required to clean the house each day and take part in household chores, overseen by Castillo.
Ewell estimates that even though Carson House residents face significant hurdles, 60 percent of its clients have been able to find housing.
Carson House can house up to 20 individuals at one time. It’s currently configured for 15 men, three women, and two transgender residents, but can be reorganized to meet demand. The facility serves as a temporary home to roughly 110 clients each year, at an annual cost of approximately $190,000.
Financial support comes from the federal program Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS, as well as SAAF general and private funds.
Part of Carson House’s unique value is that it houses transgender men and women according to their gender identification, with private bedrooms and access to private bathrooms. But residents must be HIV-positive as well as homeless to qualify for Carson House.
“There are a lot of transgender [homeless people] that aren’t,” Ewell says. “And that’s a gap here in SA.”
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