Important Work for HIV-Positive Clients

Bailey-Boushay House’s Important Work for HIV-Positive Clients

Bailey-Boushay House’s Important Work for HIV-Positive Clients

Medication management is one of the most important services Bailey-Boushay House provides.

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In 2019, the number of outpatient clients who regularly come to Bailey-Boushay House (BBH) for medical management grew to more than 400. The majority have multiple diagnoses that include being HIV-positive. They have been prescribed a combination of medications to rebuild their damaged immune systems, which have dosage instructions that are complex and must be followed precisely.

“When we treat people in the early stages of HIV, over time their immune systems can be restored. Most of our clients are homeless so it is next to impossible for them to manage the prescriptions themselves,” says Brian Knowles, BBH executive director. “Our medical team works with each individual, giving them the correct medications at the proper time.”

Along with meeting clients’ medical and physical needs, BBH offers a place where they are accepted and respected. At any time, there might be as many as 100 clients in the day room, getting a hot meal, playing cards with friends or doing their laundry as they wait for their medication or to speak with a counselor.

They are also offered a measure of personal safety they don’t experience elsewhere. In 2018 Bailey-Boushay House opened the first emergency homeless shelter in the country that only serves people with HIV, thanks to funding from the City of Seattle. “Essentially, we’ve become a 24-hour service for our clients,” Brian says.

“Our focus is on safety for our patients, our team and our community.” — Brian Knowles, executive director, Bailey-Boushay House

Each evening the large day room and hallways are converted to a safe, comfortable 50-bed shelter. Team members bring in cots, privacy dividers, sleeping mats, clean sheets, blankets and pillows and provide clean socks. ’We want every empty space we have to be filled with someone sleeping because it’s better than being outside,” adds Brian. “Having a freshly made bed is a luxury many don’t experience.”

In the shelter there are separate spaces for men and women. Each guest has a container for storing personal items. Most important of all, they know they will be safe and warm throughout the night.

“Before the shelter opened, many of our clients would stay in the neighborhood, sleeping in people's yards and doorways,” Brian recalls. “They didn’t feel safe in the city's other shelters, and they weren’t. Many were mistreated because of their sexual orientation. Some were mugged for their medications. Each year some died from the extreme cold.”

The shelter opens at 4 p.m. and operates until 6:30 a.m. In the morning, shelter clients can access hot meals, showers, laundry facilities, haircuts, grab a sack lunch and receive compassionate support. There are also opportunities to socialize, participate in an art project, play cards or talk to friends. One-on-one counseling can be arranged if needed.

Transitioning to Permanent Housing

Programs have been created to teach clients how to live independently. Called the Housing Stability Project, rental assistance, counseling and support are offered to each participant so they will be successful. Classes help with filling out applications for housing and managing a budget. There are also group sessions about handling stress, resolving conflict and learning to live within a community.

“Many clients don’t have housing histories,” Brian says. “Our team has developed relationships with landlords so we can vouch for clients. We also help clients pay off debt and fill out housing applications. We even work with an insurance provider that lets us use donor funds to help clients pay for rental insurance. Each client also receives a custom ‘new housing kit’ that includes items like a bed, pots and pans, and a vacuum cleaner.

“Donations make these new housing kits possible. When clients are in permanent housing, they can keep coming to Bailey-Boushay House for medication, meals, appointments and counseling.

“Every member of the Bailey-Boushay team, from the clinicians, nurses and therapists to our support staff and volunteers, embrace clients and residents as people,” Brian says. “We could not be more grateful for the support we receive from the community, our care partners and individuals who believe in the power of Bailey-Boushay House.”

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