Serve Our Society: Hope House
Hope House overlooks Stillwater and the St. Croix River Valley. The residence has capacity for four residents who live with HIV. Photo courtesy Hope House/Kristina Lynn Photography & Design
Stillwater nonprofit hiring staff to assist clients living with HIV
Up the hill from Main Street in Stillwater, a house offers independence for members of the LGBT community.
Founded in 1991, Hope House of St. Croix Valley provides a non-judgmental home for people living with HIV.
“We take care of people living with HIV who can no longer live independently due to comorbid conditions that may or may not be related to one’s HIV disease,” said Hope House Executive Director Bill Tiedemann. “We assist our clients to live as independent as possible in the home and community of their choice.”
“Individuals we serve may have diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure (hypertension), psychiatric disorders, or substance abuse,” Tiedemann added. “Comorbidities tend to increase a person’s need for health care and the cost of care while decreasing the person’s ability to function in the world.”
Due to Minnesota guidelines, Hope House classifies as a licensed adult foster care facility with a maximum of four residents. Each person has their own bedroom and bathroom.
Trained staff are available to assist individuals with medications, meals, and transportation to activities.
“I love the surroundings,” one Hope House resident told Lavender. “Living at Hope House in the middle of Stillwater is lovely. This home is located in a quiet neighborhood overlooking a peaceful ravine filled with fragrances, trees, birds and people walking their pets. It’s a joy to live here!”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2018, over half of people with diagnosed HIV living in the United States and dependent areas were aged 50 and older.
In Minnesota, 50% of the 9,100 individuals with HIV are over the age of 50. Of those, 19% are 60 years and older.
Because of that, Hope House launched its Hope@Home program to help ensure members of the LGBTQIA+ community diagnosed with HIV can maintain their independence as they age.
Those in the seven county metro area can utilize individualized home supports, including adaptive skills and household management; independent living skills, from self-care and improving communication; and access to 24-hour emergency assistance.
“While effective HIV treatment has decreased the likelihood of AIDS-defining illnesses among people aging with HIV, many HIV-associated non-AIDS conditions occur frequently in older persons with HIV, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, renal disease, and cancer,” Tiedemann stated.
Researchers estimate that between 25 and 50% of people with HIV have HIV-Associated Neurocognitive Disorder (HAND), a spectrum of cognitive, motor, and/or mood disorders categorized into three levels: asymptomatic, mild, and HIV-associated dementia.
Researchers are studying how HIV and its treatment affect the brain, including the effects on older people living with HIV.
“Hope@Home is geared to assist folks to stay independent and in their homes longer,” Tiedemann said. “We believe we can help people stay out of institutional care as long as possible.”
Kathleen Hill has worked for Hope House for over 20 years.
“Hope House has been like a second home to me over all these years,” Hill said. “I have been so fortunate to have met so many unique individuals over the years that have truly touched my soul.”
Due to COVID, Hope House saw a staffing shortage.
“During the peak of the pandemic, Hope House experienced an outbreak,” Tiedemann said. “All four of our residents and two of our staff became infected. I am grateful to tell you that everyone came through without serious illness or death.”
“When our outbreak occurred, we immediately lost about 80% of our staff due to fear,” Tiedemann continued. “We went from 14 staff to three. Thankfully, we had support from the Minnesota Department of Human Services to access emergency staffing. We still have not returned to the staffing levels pre COVID outbreak.”
When this article went to print, both full- and part-time Care Partner positions were open at Hope House, and both include a signing bonus. You can see career opportunities on their website, www.hopehousescv.org.
Hill, who recruits new staff, loves that Hope House provides a judgement free environment for everyone.
“We offer a place to be yourself and be safe,” Hill said. “At Hope House you do not have to hide who you are. We are an affirming place to live and work.”
I asked a Hope House resident what their life would be like if it wasn’t for Hope House.
“I fear I would be living in a nursing home. I would probably feel pretty lonely and disconnected from the community. At Hope House, that fear is gone. I have a place to live that provides me with the support I need to live my life as independently as possible.”
Hope House receives funding through Community Access for Disability Inclusion (CADI), a program that provides home and community-based services to children and adults with disabilities who require the level of care provided in a nursing facility. They also accept donations as a nonprofit organization.
“Everyone wants to live independently, so we strive to empower our residents to live as independently as possible even if their medical issues make it impossible,” Tiedemann said. “[It’s] not how we define independence, but how they define independence. It’s a core value of Hope House of St. Croix Valley and it’s also a core value for me personally.”
The work Hope House is doing is critical. Said a Hope House resident, “My guess is if I were living anywhere else, I would have lost a few years off of my life.”
You can learn more about Hope House of St. Croix Valley by visiting www.hopehousescv.org.