Jose’s story is the story of an HIV positive individual who successfully experienced the continuum of affordable housing and supportive services that Clare Housing provides to those in need. Jose has always lived with family and for a short period a girlfriend. When he moved to the Twin Cities from Chicago he briefly lived with his aunt but never had a home of his own and always physically struggled with his HIV. Jose has been HIV positive since 2002 and was diagnosed with pneumonia while living in a nursing home outside of the Twin Cities. As his health improved his doctor, Dr. Ronald Schut of Hennepin County Medical Center, and his case manager, Sue Mooney, asked for Jose to consider moving into a more home-like setting that was still a 24-hour care facility. Jose remembers, “I didn’t want to move, I don’t like change but my doctor and case manager thought it was the best thing for me to do.”
A room at Grace House became available for Jose. He interviewed for the spot and was offered placement in the fall of 2004. “I remember moving in October, I was so nervous but the staff and caregivers welcomed me and helped me adjust to my new home.” Not knowing what to expect in this communal setting with new people, Jose adapted within a few months and slowly became more comfortable. The staff worked with him to gain independent skills, organize his medication, and create daily routines. Over time the caregivers encouraged Jose to attend Park House, a day health program for people living with HIV/AIDS. There he found additional support and he was able to connect with someone he met at the nursing home. “I have been attending Park House since 2004 every Tuesday and Thursday. I like going to group counseling and attending social activities with my friend Joe – it always makes me feel better when I spend a day at Park House.”
In the four years that Jose lived at Grace House he connected to living in the care home environment and began to build relationships with the other residents, staff and volunteers. Once he successfully gained his independence and confidence, Michele Boyer, Program Director for Clare Housing, began discussing with Jose and his providers the idea of moving into his own apartment at Clare Apartments. He applied for the Assisted Living Program and was accepted. Jose moved from Grace House to Clare Apartments in October 2008. For the first time, he was living in his own apartment with his name on a lease. “Because it was change I was a little nervous at first but now it is extraordinarily magnificent – I never want to leave,” says Jose. The first Thanksgiving that Jose was in his apartment he made his own Thanksgiving dinner, “it was incredible to be in my own home and eating a thanksgiving dinner that I made for myself.” Jose works with an independent living skills worker from the county, who assists him with grocery shopping, cooking and other daily living skills.
Although Jose has been successful in Clare Housing’s programs, he has had some difficult times. However, with the support of the caregivers and his doctor he has learned how to respond and deal with them, “Dr. Schut has been a major influence for me and has helped me through some tough periods in my life.” As a client of the Assisted Living Program, he receives assistance on medication management, setting appointments, transportation coordination and other services. Additionally, like all of the residents at Clare Apartments, Jose has access to a nurse on staff when he needs one and 24/7 front desk security. Jose’s story is a successful example of how Clare Housing’s continuum of affordable housing programs and supportive services can help individuals reach independence and support in living with HIV/AIDS. Today, Jose’s viral load is undetectable and he is healthy. Jose has been enjoying the summer with his new bike, rollerblading and watching the Twins – “unless they play against the White Sox then I have support my home team.”