“I was diagnosed with HIV 26 years ago during the height of the epidemic. I was struggling with drug addiction and nearly died after abstaining from treatment. I became sober after several years and found a job, however low pay and rising rent nearly left me and my 13-year old son homeless. Determined to provide a better life for us, I found a home with the Family Program at Jerusalem House. Several years later, I am now healthy and working toward certification as a substance abuse counselor.
“Jerusalem House gave me hope,” Shandora said.
Looking to provide housing to support individuals like Shandora and the rising HIV homeless population in Atlanta, leaders formed Jerusalem House in 1988. The first residence, which officially opened in 1989, was originally created to provide only five people a place to die with dignity. The organization’s mission has since evolved from comforting the dying to assisting the living and as such has served more than 1,550 individuals impacted by HIV/AIDS.
Safe and permanent housing is one of the greatest unmet needs in Georgia, which is where Jerusalem House makes a life-changing difference. While the number of new HIV infections has declined in the US since 2005, the crisis of HIV/AIDS across the south, particularly in urban regions in Georgia, remains. The state currently ranks fifth in the nation with 42,064 people living with HIV and 2,247 new cases since 2014. “Jerusalem House believes that housing is healthcare. In Atlanta, our agency’s soon to be 308 units will provide 74% of the designated spaces of permanent housing for those affected by HIV/AIDS. A majority of the population we serve has achieved viral suppression, which directly supports our belief that safe and stable housing positively impacts health outcomes for individuals who are HIV positive,” said Cornesha Scott, Institutional Giving Manager.
Jerusalem House operates five housing programs throughout DeKalb, Fulton, Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, Douglas, and Gwinnett counties that serve a variety of populations including single adults, homeless families, the elderly and low-income individuals. In addition to housing, clients receive supportive services including counseling, HIV/AIDS medical services, emotional wellness treatment, childcare, and food and clothing assistance.
“Our programs meet our residents where they are and give them the support they need—providing intensive support for the most medically and emotionally fragile to providing just a portion of rent and utilities for those individuals and families who are near self-sufficiency,” Cornesha shared.
Jerusalem House plans to continue its support of the homeless and underserved HIV/AIDS populations in Atlanta through the expansion of its programs. DIFFA’s support helped add 130 units across four counties and completed the launch of the New Horizons Program, a Tenant-Based Rental Assistance Program which serves more than 40 residents.
“It is because of support systems like DIFFA that we are able to help our residents stabilize their mental/physical health, improve their economic situations, and break the intergenerational cycle of poverty and disease,” said Cornesha.
Help DIFFA continue to support more organizations across the country like Jerusalem House through our grant-making initiatives. To learn more about their mission and work visit www.jerusalemhouse.org.