by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
Two of the premier organizations within the AIDS Care Continuum of Seattle, Rosehedge and Multifaith Works, are merging forces to strengthen the power of their services.
The two organizations have been instrumental in providing services to people living with HIV/AIDS. Rosehedge provides enhanced assisted living by providing around-the-clock nursing care for each resident, all meals, and supportive services. Multifaith Works provides housing and support through their Transitional Housing Program, and also offers two emotional support programs: CareTeams and Shanti.
Both agencies serve men and women who are homeless, or on the verge of homelessness, and are living with HIV/AIDS.
According to the Board of Directors at both agencies, late in 2009, the two organizations began discussing how a merger of the two assistance providers would galvanize their strengths by building capacity through joint programming and administrative consolidation.
In July of this year, both agencies signed Conditions of Merger and expect the merger to be legally complete by January 1, 2011.
Rosehedge and Multifaith Works have a low barrier of entry. They pride themselves on providing for those who do not have alternatives. Finding safe shelter and food are often a priority for homeless people living with HIV/AIDS. For many, taking medications and accessing their primary care physician becomes nonexistent. In fact, the affected individual may not even have a primary care physician. The emergency room becomes the health provider, which ultimately raises the taxpayer burden for all King County residents. The merging of the two organizations creates a better model, ultimately positioning them as a powerful local resource that can be looked to as an archetype for HIV/AIDS housing across the country.
Rosehedge and Multifaith Works leadership also note that the merger eliminates competition for scarce funding dollars.
The merger will allow:
o Shared resources: Administrative overhead and program expenses can be shared jointly between agencies, eliminating redundancy, allocating more resources directly to the programs.
o A bigger voice for advocacy: As the face of HIV/AIDS has changed, attention around the epidemic has faded. This merger strengthens the collective voice, helping to ensure that HIV/AIDS does not fade into the background or exist in isolation in the community.
o Increased capacity: With streamlined overhead costs, one combined agency will operate with stronger capacity, eventually expanding to serve more vulnerable men and women in the community.
o Symbiotic relationships: Rosehedge's medical model and Multifaith Works' emotional support model combined will create a collaboration that provide the highest level care for each client.
According to the King County Public Health Seattle-King monthly HIV/AIDS Epidemiology Report, in 2009, an estimated 10,532 people in Washington state were living with HIV/AIDS. Of those, 6,575 (62%) live in King County, where Rosehedge and Multifaith Works operate.
In addition, 344 new cases were reported in King County, and 599 new cases were reported in Washington state.
Thanks to the advances is medicine, a diagnosis does not mean death, but a new path to navigate. In 2010, people living with HIV/AIDS can live full, long lives provided they have access to healthcare, stable housing, compassionate care and support.
Compelling research demonstrates the critical significance of housing as an intervention to address both public and individual health priorities, including disease prevention, health care access and effectiveness, and cost contaminant. This is especially true in the case of people living with HIV/AIDS.
"A safe, decent home, nourishing food, and critical medication are basics that we all deserve - especially our friends and neighbors fighting such a devastating disease," said Rosehedge and Multifaith Works officials in a press release announcing the merger. "Add mental illness, chemical dependency, and AIDS-related dementia into the mix, and you have a group of people in desperate need - people who lack the ability to care for themselves or to navigate the complex social service system."
A COMBINED RESPONSE
Rosehedge and Multifaith Works empower those with HIV/AIDS to stabilize their housing and their health, and re-establish compassionate human connections. Stigmatized and removed from "mainstream" life, people living with a terminal illness - sometimes with the additional complication of mental illness or chemical dependency - are often isolated, lonely, afraid, and have no one to reach out to.
Through four programs - Enhanced Assisted Living, Transformational Housing, CareTeams and Shanti - Rosehedge and Multifaith Works deliver critical services to individuals in need.
The Enhanced Assisted Living Program provides both long- and short-term housing in three facilities; two in North Seattle and one in Capitol Hill.
The Transitional Housing Program provides housing for up to two years as well as connection to addiction and mental health services to homeless individuals living with HIV/AIDS. The program also manages a respite house for individuals with AIDS who are exiting the hospital, but are not yet well enough to live on their own.
The CareTeam Program matches a team of five to 10 volunteers with an individual or family affected by HIV/AIDS. The team provides emotional support and assistance with daily activities like shopping or light household duties that may be difficult for the client to perform.
Shanti volunteers are matched in one-on-one relationships with clients and provide nonjudgmental listening that allows the clients to explore their feelings, identify issues, and find solutions to those issues on their own.
In addition to the four programs, there is SHIFT, a peer recovery network. SHIFT is a multi-agency collaboration that provides administrative, emotional, and supervisory support for volunteers and clients in the Seattle, King County area who are LGBT people struggling with drug and alcohol abuse and addiction issues. SHIFT represents collaboration between Multifaith Works, Seattle Counseling Service, Gay City Health Project, and Dunshee House, each of which brings unique experience and services to the network.
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