Big changes are underway in the way people living with HIV/AIDS will receive the services necessary for them to live well in Indy.
More than a dozen local non-profit HIV/AIDS outreach providers are now cooperating amongst each other to best catalog, collect and distribute available resources to support HIV-positive people in need of services such as housing and health care in Central Indiana.
Indy's multi-faceted community of service providers works with a diverse range of demographics and individual needs. The group relies on various streams of government and private grant money to fund the outreach projects necessary to test, treat and prevent the spread of the brutal virus.
To reduce duplicated efforts and wasted funding opportunities, the groups last fall started a cooperative working group to enable greater efficiency and service.
Before the group, a person with HIV/AIDS would have to approach each group separately and complete each group's application process. Now the groups can determine which one of their number is best poised to serve a client based on needs and the varied outreach specialties of each provider.
Representatives from U.S. Rep. André Carson's office and local service providers gathered Friday to formally announce the collaboration between Indy and 14 providers in Central Indiana to more effectively utilize the Housing Opportunities for Persons with HIV/AIDS [HOPWA] funds the City of Indianapolis receives from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development [HUD].
"People living with HIV/AIDS often face insurmountable challenges finding affordable and stable housing. For many, HOPWA funding is the remedy," Carson said in a news release after the event. "Our collaboration today ensures that each federal dollar enhances more lives and makes it easier when I advocate for additional HOPWA funding in the coming year.
The announcement opened a forum focused on "Housing as a Platform to Health and Self Sufficiency for Persons with HIV/AIDS and their families." Nancy Bernstine of the National Aids Housing Coalition keynoted, followed by a round table of local service providers.
Other HIV/AIDS Roundtable participants:Casa Mateo: Latino Services
Julie Fidler, human services grant manager for the Indianapolis Department of Metropolitan Development, stopped by NUVO to provide an overview. That conversation is recast below as a summarized Q &A:
NUVO: How did this get started?
JF: In August of last year, we saw a need to get all these groups together who are working with people with HIV and AIDS and their families É to really sit and talk and see if we could find some common ground É Could we find ways to be partners? Could we find other funding through these partnerships? Because HOPWA is not a huge amount of money compared to other grants. Last year it was $845,000 approximately. This year, because of federal budget negotiations, it's flat, which is effectively a 2 percent cut — that translates to about $830,000.
NUVO: What was going on before the round table?
JF: Each group had its own grant writers, some had translation services, some had access to transgender services or domestic violence services. So we asked, "What do you bring to the table? How can we maximize those resources?What can we give to each other?"
This enabled an expansion in the number of groups HOPWA served from three last year to five agencies this year.
NUVO: What did you notice when you put your heads together?
JF: We noticed there were some gaps in services, such as short-term rental assistance and emergency funds. For people with compromised immune systemsÉ they have to have access to clean good houses, refrigeration, good diets.
We formed a workgroup to look at the possibility of being short on emergency funds.
NUVO: Didn't you come up with something revolutionary?
JF: It's so amazing! They looked at what's the best way to get access for not only their clients but all other nine agencies, as well — the ones that don't get our (HOPWA) funds.
They came up with a common application. They don't have this in other areas. It will allow access to those five (HOPWA-funded) agencies, but others as well that may not have capacity to apply for our funding by themselves.
It allows for them all to reduce duplications in service where they're filling out multiple applications, for multiple agencies for review by multiple funding boards ...
Is it perfect? Probably not. But it's pretty darn good. It's a good start.
We sent it to all agencies and said, "This is how you apply for funding."
It's caused people to stop and think is HOPWA is the best use of funding for this client's situation. If clients are better matched with appropriate assistance and funding to start with, the potential for greater care and self-sufficiency increases.
There will be people for whom self-sufficiency will have less barriers. Others will need help with rent, others, because of mental health or other things, may need longer-term assistance.
The common application preserves each pot of funding for the people who need it the most.
NUVO: What else has come out of the roundtable?
JF: Partnerships – lots and lots of partnership.
Like the Housing Hot List, which develops connections between managers of remodeled, guaranteed affordable housing and the roundtable participants.
We housed 17 clients last year, some without subsidy. They just needed to find an affordable place to live. At least another five people have been housed since January.
NUVO: What does this mean for the city?
JF: We are taking people out of vulnerable situations.
One client lived with people who would steal his food stamps, people who used him. Through the partnership he's attached to services to access available health care and housing with a partial rent subsidy.
Each one of the numbers we have represents a persons' story. They're people. They need help. They are in vulnerable situations. We have a responsibility as a society to help them. But I have responsibility to do that in the most fiscally responsible way.
This group has been amazing. They've done and looked at everything I've asked them to. They educated me. And they really are successful. They haven't changed their target audiences, their missions or their values. But they are working together, which is a huge thing. To get 15 groups to sit together in one room and work together is a big deal. And I'm proud of them for that.
NUVO: What does this mean for the bottom line?
JF: Last year, we provided 121 people helped with tenant-based rental assistance at an average cost of $4,899 per year. HUD capped payments at $535 for a one bedroom, which costs $620. So there's almost a $2,000 shortage for each person. We're short every one of those 121 people on paying the full amount of their rent.
Short-term assistance for basic living needs was $479 average per person over a year.
I don't know what your gas or electric bills are, but $479 for a year doesn't go too far.
The $326 case management average is for human services staff. That means for each of the people we served last year, we could only pay someone to help them link to these other services — food, medical, basic survival — we could only pay $326 of that person's salary over 14 agencies worth of people.
We assisted 276 people with short-term rent, utilities and mortgage assistance and 242 with supportive services.
The funded agencies took the $845,000 in HOPWA funds and leveraged $1.2 million of other funding to make up for those gaps. We're going to do even more of that this year.