Portland HIV/AIDS center gets $4M, 3-year grant for housing programs

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PORTLAND — The state’s largest HIV/AIDs organization will receive $2.9 million in federal grants.

Last week’s announcements are the latest in a string of good news for the Frannie Peabody Center, which is focusing more of its efforts on providing stable housing for people infected with HIV/AIDS.

U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins announced one grant of nearly $1.5 million. Another $1.4 million was announced by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for rural outreach programs. They followed an award of $1.1 million in funding for permanent supportive housing for previously incarcerated or homeless individuals who suffer from mental illness or substance abuse problems in May.  

In all, Executive Director Patti Capouch said, the Peabody Center will receive nearly $4 million from HUD over the next three years to support three housing programs. Two programs, Outreach to Rural Maine and Initiative to House and Serve Targeted Populations, each received increases of 10 percent, or $45,000.

As HIV/AIDS treatment has improved over the years, Capouch said the Peabody Center has shifted away from its focus on providing hospice care to the terminally ill – a shift in focus that shut down the Peabody House in January. Instead, the focus is on rental assistance programs for people infected with the virus, who are living longer, more productive lives. 

“Studies show that if you have a stable roof over your head, you’re two to three times more likely to take your medicine and go to the doctor,” Capouch said. “If you’re homeless and carrying all of your medicine around in a bag with you, it’s really hard to be adherent to those meds.”

The center provides a variety of housing services for its HIV/AIDs clients. A tenant-based rental assistance program pays 70 percent of a qualifying client’s rent; a short-term program provides assistance with rent, mortgage and utility payments; a permanent housing program provides security deposits, apartment application fees and credit repair fees; and supportive services provides case management, life skills management, outreach and transportation. 

Capouch said the center provides short- and long-term rental assistance to about 250 people statewide, nearly 200 of whom live in Portland or Cumberland County. The increase in funding may allow the center to help out a few more people waiting for assistance, a list that currently has about 54 names on it. “We hope to be able to provide a few more vouchers,” she said.  

Capouch said the nearly $1.5 million announced last week will be spent on Outreach to Racial and Ethnic Minorities, a partnership with the Shalom House that provides direct client support and services to people, who have cultural and language issues, access other supportive services and health care resources.

“Our mission is to prevent the spread of HIV and to help support those who are living with HIV and AIDS,” she said. “For us, getting people housed, getting them to the doctor, working along with their medical team and linking them up to support or substance abuse services, it really makes such a difference if they have a roof over their head. It really does.”

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or rbillings@theforecaster.net