|Doorways offers care for those with HIV/AIDS|
Emily Edwards was homeless and working as a prostitute to support a
long-term drug addiction when she moved to Doorways, a residential
program for those with HIV/AIDS. UMNS photos by John Gordon.
By John Gordon*
Feb. 26, 2009 | ST. LOUIS (UMNS)
As snow covers the ground and the temperature drops to 18 degrees,
Emily Edwards sits in her warm apartment and reflects on how her life
Doorways is a 36-bed supportive housing facility near downtown St. Louis.
Six months ago, she says, she was homeless and working as a
prostitute to support a long-term drug addiction. Things changed
dramatically when she moved to Doorways, a residential program for
those with HIV/AIDS.
“I would be standing on the street corner,” says Edwards, 47. “I honestly believe that if Doorways didn’t come and save me, I would be dead by now.”
Doorways, which receives support from United Methodist
congregations in the area, provides a safe place to stay, nutritious
meals and medical supervision in a 36-bed supportive housing facility
near downtown St. Louis. The organization also offers help with
rent, mortgage payments and utilities for HIV/AIDS patients and
families who are able to live independently.
For Edwards, the comforts of home at the supportive housing facility are a stark contrast to life on the streets.
“When I first got here, I flipped my light switches up and
down, up and down, because I had lights,” she says. “I laid,
bounced in my bed, because I had a bed that I didn’t have to sleep with
a big knife under my pillow and dressed in my clothes.”
Doorways was founded in 1988 by community leaders and
representatives from the area’s major religious
denominations. Over the last two decades, according to Lynne
Cooper, Doorways president, the organization has received financial
support and “moral leadership” from United Methodists.
“Today, the people who have HIV and AIDS are poor; they’re often people of color,” says Cooper. “They really don’t have an advocate unless the church speaks up or the faith community or people like Doorways speak up.”
“We do it because it’s the right thing,” says Lynne Cooper, president of the 20-year-old Doorways program.
Research has also shown stable housing helps reduce the spread
of AIDS. With proper treatment, those with AIDS or who are
HIV-positive are living longer.
“When Doorways started, it was about an average of two years
from diagnosis to death,” says Cooper. “And today, some of our
clients with HIV will live maybe as long as I do.”
When neighbors opposed a planned Doorways facility, members of
Lafayette Park United Methodist Church rallied to their support and
helped ease those concerns. The Rev. Kathleen Wilder says many of
the church’s members have AIDS.
“I used to joke that if your family didn’t like
you, we would,” says Wilder. “And that’s kind of how the nature of
this church is. The people here, just with open arms, welcome
Doorways residents are quick to praise the care they receive and the bonds they develop with staff members. “They genuinely love us and care about us and that makes a difference,” says Scott Luckett, 45, who is HIV-positive.
Before moving to Doorways, Luckett felt like “less than a person” after the treatment he received at a St. Louis hospital. “The
hospital had actually put me out in their parking lot for two nights,”
he explains, “because the doctors there kept saying, ’Well, there’s
nothing else we can do and we’re tired of you coming in here.’”
Cooper believes there are compassionate as well as economic reasons to
provide care for HIV/AIDS patients. “We do it because it’s the right
thing,” she says. “But we also know that it saves our community a
great deal of money for people to be housed in adequate and safe places
to live, rather than to spend more time than they need to in the
“They genuinely love us and care about us. And that makes a difference,” says Scott Luckett, who is HIV-positive.
Edwards calls Doorways workers “my angels” who helped change her life.
“People look past the drug-addicted prostitute,” she
says. “Now, I am just a beautiful person trying to get my life
right and live with HIV. That’s what it’s all about and this place
has given me that.”
*John Gordon is a freelance producer and writer based in Marshall, Texas.
News media contact: Fran Coode Walsh, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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