Photos courtesy of Clare Housing, Copyright 2020 Project for Pride in Living & MSR Design
Housing is healthcare for people living with HIV.
It might not be an immediately intuitive idea, but Cary Lenore Walski, who has been a Copilot Communications Consultant with Clare Housing for the last six years, explains the relationship between housing and healthcare deftly. “Imagine being homeless and living with HIV. You may have a number of medications you need to take. Some might need to be refrigerated. Some taken with food. Some without. It would be impossible to manage it all while struggling to find a place to sleep each night. Health takes a back seat when you’re homeless.”
Since its foundation in 1987 Clare Housing has worked tirelessly to provide the resources that people with HIV and AIDS need. Walski explains the early days of Clare Housing further: “Already disowned by their families because of their sexual orientation or gender identification, and too often refused nursing home beds by licensed medical professionals at the time, people dying of complications of AIDS had literally nowhere to go except the hospice homes that later became Clare Housing.”
Clare Housing has changed since its early days of hospice homes, consistently remaining a vital resource for Minnesotans by actively responding to the needs of its community. “We now offer affordable housing in apartment buildings and Care Homes to extremely low-income residents living with HIV,” Walski explains, “A majority of our residents have a history of homelessness.”
Clare Housing has recently begun work on a new project: an apartment complex in Bloomington called Bloom Lake Flats. Currently projected to open “in late 2021, this apartment building will bring revitalization to the Lake Street corridor, and provide 42 new units of housing to people living with HIV,” Walski says, “For the first time ever, 15 units will be dedicated to families. It will feature green space and a play area for children.” There are many elements that go into the design of Bloom Lake Flats, but chief among them is that these apartments feel like homes – not just housing.
This project is being undertaken in tandem with the local non-profit Project for Pride in Living, which is a collaboration that Clare Housing values highly. “Clare Housing leadership works hard with our project partners like PPL to produce affordable housing that anyone would feel proud to live in, and we think it shows,” Walski says.
Clare Housing has also been fortunate enough to add Phoebe Trepp to their team as an Executive Director. “Phoebe is a big believer that an organization thrives when its staff and service participants thrive,” says Walski, “She is dedicated to continuing Clare Housing’s people-centered approach to its work.”
Trepp, who is beyond excited to return to her hometown of Minneapolis, left another Executive Director position at Willis Dady Homeless Services in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Her experience there combined with her Masters in Public Health make her uniquely suited to “help the organization play its part in closing the housing gap for the remaining 1,000 Minnesotans living with HIV who will be homeless or insecurely housed tonight,” according to Walski.
Clare Housing has put decades of work into improving the lives of Minnesotans and there has never been a better time to support their hard work. This September 30th, they will be hosting a COVID-friendly fundraiser in tandem with A Place to Call Home.
The event, which is a socially distanced, drive-in movie style fundraiser, will be held at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. This Great Minnesota Give Together has a little something for everyone. “We will kick-off with an uplifting hour-long fundraising program featuring inspirational stories,” Walski says, “The program will be followed by an intermission drag show with MC Mary Brewster and friends Mia Dorr, Dramatica, Anastasia C. Principle, and DJ DiDi. After intermission, we’ll host a free showing of the motion picture musical RENT!” On top of the entertainment, there will be food trucks serving BBQ, ice cream, tacos, corn dogs, cheese curds, and mini donuts. The Riverview Theater will be serving complimentary popcorn.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a lot from so many of us,” says Walski, “A Place to Call Home will be a socially distanced event that offers us all a chance to reconnect at a safe distance, and party with a purpose.”