Windy City Media Group Frontpage News

THE VOICE OF CHICAGO'S GAY, LESBIAN, BI, TRANS AND QUEER COMMUNITY SINCE 1985

home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2022-08-31
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
Donate

Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

AIDS Chicago House expands beyond housing
by Erica Demarest, Windy City Times
2012-01-25

This article shared 5441 times since Wed Jan 25, 2012
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


With an operating budget of nearly $5 million and programs dispersed throughout the city, the Chicago House and Social Service Agency is considered one of Chicago's largest and best-known HIV/AIDS nonprofits. It's been inducted to the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame and has welcomed luminaries such as Bill Clinton and Madeleine Albright.

And it all got started with a simple meeting in a drag bar.

In 1985, a group of community members, sick of seeing their AIDS-positive friends die on the streets, met at the Baton to address Chicago's need for nonjudgmental housing. The would-be activists soon banded together, fundraised through "tag days," and within a year, had enough money to lease an Uptown mansion.

"There wasn't one visionary," said Stan Sloan, current executive director. "There was a whole collection of people from the LGBT community. A little known fact about our history is that it was the whole LGBT community; it wasn't just gay men."

The Chicago House was incorporated as an Illinois not-for-profit on Sept. 9, 1985. Armed with private donations and $91,500 worth of city block grants, the NGO opened its first home on Feb. 25, 1986.

The renovated twenty-room Uptown mansion housed eight individuals in private rooms with shared dining, cooking and living areas. Since medications were largely nonexistent and life expectancies short, the house provided a space where people could die with dignity.

" [ We offered ] an environment where no one put blame on them, shame on them," said Dan Sesztak, who's worked at Chicago House since March 1987. "At least they were in an environment that was home-like. We tried to make the rooms as homey as possible."

Modeled after similar group homes in San Francisco, Houston and Boston, Chicago House's Uptown residence soon developed a hefty waitlist.

In November 1986, noted LGBT activist Thom Dombkowski became the organization's first executive director. Under his guidance, the fledgling NGO expanded operations to open Lakeview and Northwest Side homes in 1987.

Though the organization was making strides, it soon became evident that some residents desperately needed 24-hour hospice care.

"You can only be in the hospital for x-amount of time because of the insurance system we have," Sesztak said. "Then where do you go? Who wants to be in a nursing home and have AIDS?"

In 1988, Chicago House launched its 24-Hour Care Program on the first floor of its Lakeview residence. The need for hospice support quickly outgrew the tiny space, and in 1989, the organization opened a seven-bedroom Edgewater home that would become a permanent location for its 24-hour support services.

By the early 1990s, AIDS had become a truly global pandemic that touched people of every nationality, race and walk of life. To address the needs of shifting HIV/AIDS-impacted populations, the Chicago House launched its Family Support Program in 1992.

"From the start, our roots were in the gay community," Sloan said, "but we've always been about the much bigger picture of HIV and AIDS."

Chicago House partnered with the Children's Place Association to become the first service provider in the Midwest to offer family-focused housing. With funding commitments from the U.S. Department of Housing and Human Services ( HUD ) among others, Chicago House broke ground in 1995 on what would become known as the Fred Woods Home.

Open to the public in 1997, the North Side facility housed nine families in a collection of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments. In its first year alone, the home received 53 applications for just nine spots; and the Chicago House soon launched a second family facility in Uptown.

In the late 1990s, the HIV/AIDS landscape shifted once more with the development of highly active antiretroviral therapies ( HAART ) . As people impacted by HIV and AIDS lived longer, fuller lives, their needs grew to include counseling, medication adherence therapy and much more.

Chicago House rose to the occasion.

"When you look back at our history," Sesztak said, "we tried to meet the needs of our clients as soon as we could. We saw [ a problem ] and—bam—we implemented the need."

In addition to offering myriad counseling and support services, Chicago House launched the Independent Living Program in 1997 with the purchase of a 24-unit building. Clients who could live independently but might still need financial support could apply to live in studio apartments.

"The question was: What could people do now that they could kind of manage their health and see their life expectancies extended?" said Jeff Pulliam, resident manager.

Regular case management and other social services were soon added to Chicago House's growing repertoire.

Health had improved so much in the HIV/AIDS community that by early 1999, Chicago House's 24-hour care facility had free beds and empty waiting lists for the first time in its history. After serving more than 400 people over the course of a decade, the facility closed its doors in 2000.

"It was a very clinical, hospital-like setting, and we just didn't need that anymore," Sloan said.

What Chicago House did need was a push toward prevention services, medication adherence programs and alternative housing. Today, the NGO boasts numerous counseling and employment programs, not to mention five distinct housing programs located in neighborhoods across the city.

The Supportive Living Program offers a "first step" home for those who are coming directly off the streets or might need substance abuse counseling; while family housing options now include aftercare and tutoring for children. And programs such as Gaining Ground and Scattered-Site offer rent subsidies for those working toward economic independence.

Helping clients achieve that kind of independence is what Chicago House is all about, Sloan said.

"The analogy is: People show up at our door, and we give them a toolbox," he said. "Over however many years that they need to live with us, they fill that toolbox up with tools to live healthy, independent lives. And they save [ money ] while they're with us: They take part of their income and it automatically goes into an account that we give to them when they move out."

While creating safe, affirming housing will always remain central to Chicago House's mission, Sloan said, the organization plans to focus its energy on social services, such as peer-to-peer education and employment programming, as it moves forward. [ For an in-depth look at Chicago House's employment services, see other article this issue ] .

"Chicago House has always chased the virus—whatever the new thing is," said Lisa Razzano, a UIC professor who conducts research with the organization. "Initially it was housing. There were no housing programs, so they made housing. Now there's no work for people with HIV, so they're doing that. We have a peer workforce in recovery that we could be taking advantage of. They're doing that."

Razzano believes Chicago House will continue to be on the forefront of innovative, adaptive programming well into the future.

"They've evolved as much as HIV science has evolved in the last 30 years."

To learn more about the Chicago House and Social Services Agency, visit www.chicagohouse.org or twitter.com/HereTilTheCure.

This story is part of the Local Reporting Initiative, supported in part by The Chicago Community Trust.


This article shared 5441 times since Wed Jan 25, 2012
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

Chicago's COVID level returns to 'medium'; boosters/shots encouraged
2022-11-26
According to the latest information on the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) website, the city's COVID-19 risk level is now at medium level. In a news release, the Chicago Department of Public Health explained Cook ...


Gay News

Transgender Day of Resilience: Town Hall panelists tackle allyship, discrimination and immigration
2022-11-23
Brave Space Alliance (BSA), Life Is Work (LIW) and Chicago Therapy Collective (CTC) hosted three free events across the city that they named—TDOR Weekend: A New Era, Together— to celebrate ...


Gay News

SHOWBIZ Grammy nominees, Gabrielle Union, Trevor Noah, Brendan Fraser
2022-11-20
Out Magazine compiled a list of some of the 2023 LGBTQA+ Grammy nominees. Among those on the list were Brandi Carlile (who earned another seven Grammy nominations this year, raising her career total to 25), Lady ...


Gay News

Lambda Legal challenges anti-HIV military policy
2022-11-13
Lambda Legal filed a legal challenge to the U.S. military policy that prevents people living with HIV from enlisting in the U.S. Armed Forces, according to a press release. The current policy requires that applicants for ...


Gay News

Center on Halsted hosts health resource event for LGBTQ+ seniors
2022-11-11
Center on Halsted hosted How to Plan for your Changing Health Needs, a Senior Citizen Resource Fair with a particular focus for members of the LGBTQ community on Nov. 8. A host of representatives from medical, ...


Gay News

National AIDS Memorial names 2022-2023 Pedro Zamora Young Leaders Scholarship recipients
2022-11-09
-- From a press release - SAN FRANCISCO, California, Nov. 09, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The National AIDS Memorial has announced its 2022/2023 Pedro Zamora Young Leaders scholars, its largest and most diverse class ever, providing ...


Gay News

QPOC and transgender elders become focus of grad school student's master's thesis
2022-11-02
When we think about how LGBTQ+ age, helping people feel connected and "seen" is just one of the many ways a community can care for LGBTQ+ elders. It can contribute to their mental health as they ...


Gay News

Santa Speedo Run Northalsted to return, has raised more $500,000+ for Chicago's LGBTQ+ community
2022-11-01
-- From a press release - CHICAGO (Nov. 1, 2022) The Santa Speedo Run Northalsted is back with a full afternoon of events that begin at noon on Saturday, Dec 3. Proceeds from the annual event benefit Center on Halsted, Chicago's LGBTQ ...


Gay News

SAVOR Matcha Cita
2022-10-31
Just steps from the Morgan stop on the Pink and Green lines is a heavenly place. And if you don't believe this writer about Matcha Cita (1017 W. Lake St., with an additional spot at Studio ...


Gay News

NATIONAL Birth certificates, university items, drag-show standoff, 'Models of Pride'
2022-10-30
Following a lawsuit from ACLU, ACLU of West Virginia and the Harvard Law School LGBTQ+ Advocacy Clinic, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources' Vital Registration Office has introduced more accessible and safer policies ...


Gay News

Sheryl Lee Ralph producing HIV/AIDS documentary
2022-10-29
Recent Emmy winner Sheryl Lee Ralph has signed on to produce Unexpected, a documentary short about women of color living with HIV in the South, Variety reported. Directed by Zeberiah Newman, the film will chronicle Masonia ...


Gay News

Howard Brown Health's Big Orange Ball has 'Saturday Night Fever' theme
2022-10-27
Howard Brown Health's Big Orange Ball was back in-person at Park West on Oct. 22—this time with a big (not orange) disco ball. About 300 people brought their Halloween spirit to the event, dressed in costumes ...


Gay News

WORLD Anti-LGBTQ+ countries, UK monkeypox/MPV, vigil, intersex activist
2022-10-23
Video below - Thirty-four Commonwealth nations still have anti-LGBTQ+ laws—roughly three-fifths of the group's total of 53 nations, according to Erasing 76 Crimes. Worldwide, 69 countries still cling to such anti-homosexuality laws. Just ...


Gay News

Chicago Dept. of Public Health reports first two monkeypox/MPV deaths
2022-10-22
On Oct. 21, the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) announced two deaths of Chicago residents caused by this year's monkeypox virus (MPV) outbreak. According to a CDPH press release, both individuals had multiple other health ...


Gay News

LGBTQ+ HISTORY MONTH Podcast sheds light on forgotten murders of gay men in Montreal
2022-10-22
When people ask about or Google the murders of gay men in Montreal in the '90s, it all leads to the podcast "The Village: The Montreal Murders." LGBTQ+-rights advocates encouraged me to listen to the podcast. ...


 




Copyright © 2022 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 
 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS






Donate


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam     
Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.