Federal Funds Continue to Help People Living with AIDS/HIV in Charlottesville

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Albemarle Charlottesville Health Department (FILE IMAGE) Albemarle Charlottesville Health Department (FILE IMAGE)

People with HIV or AIDS in Charlottesville and Albemarle County are getting some financial help to pay their rent.

Charlottesville City Council has agreed to continue a program that will give $213,012 to organizations that help people in need.

The federal program Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS (HOPWA) has been providing funds to the area for over 20 years.

HOPWA is intended to help people with HIV/AIDS get stable housing.

When Thrive Healthcare – previously known as AIDS/HIV Services Group - closed in 2016, the Virginia Department of Health Thomas Jefferson Health District (TJHD) took over the program.

Health Department Director Dr. Denise Bonds says it is not that people with HIV/AIDS are being discriminated against when finding housing, but that HOPWA is in place because people with chronic diseases often have a hard time keeping up rent check and their jobs.

"Like many people with chronic medical conditions, people with AIDS have difficulty getting jobs or maintaining jobs because they have other medical issues that they have to deal with on a regular basis," Bonds explained.

Charlottesville appropriated federal funds to various organizations in the city to fulfill the HOPWA federal grant. TJHD takes care of the screening and evaluation process for applicants, while The Haven, a homeless shelter, writes the actual checks to the landlord.

Charlottesville Department of Human Services Director Kaki Dimock says the money, on average, helps 20 to 25 people with rent. People who apply for the money are required to already have a lease.

"We don't find the housing for them, we just administer the money," Bonds explained.

But, not every applicant is able to receive assistance: "The reality is that there is often more people in need and who qualify for a program than there is money available," said Dimock.

Dimock says the decisions on which applicants will be selected for rental assistance is usually on the Health Department.

"The administrating agency needs to determine what the priorities are. Are there people who are of higher medical need than others?" she said.

Applicants go through an intensive screening process to figure out how much of their rent will be taken care of with the HOPWA grant.

People can still apply with the Virginia Health Department on a rolling basis for rent help. If someone doesn't qualify for the program, the Thomas Jefferson Health District is able to refer them to other places or programs that do similar work.