The population served at CitiLeaf, formerly homeless people living with HIV/AIDS who also struggle with a history of substance abuse and/or mental illness, represents a group with housing and vital support service needs within New York City.

The AIDS epidemic is 35 years old and is still with us. Despite the progress we’ve made in developing and providing increased access to medical treatments, there are still over 140,000 HIV-positive individuals in New York City.

The homeless population is at far greater risk of contracting HIV than individuals with stable housing. HIV/AIDS rates among the homeless in New York City is more than twice as high as among the general adult population. Amongst the homeless, transmission rates are 16 times higher than in the general population. Those who are homeless or unstably housed and living with HIV also experience worse overall physical and mental health, have lower CD4 counts and higher viral loads, and are less likely to receive and adhere to treatment than those who have permanent, suitable housing.

CitiLeaf residents continue to experience stigma and institutionalized discrimination in attempts to access necessary resources from external systems. For this reason, advocacy is a vital component of working with this population. For many residents, moving into permanent housing represents an end point in the continuum of navigating and engaging with a multitude of other systems or experiences including emergency shelters, SROs, and street homelessness. It is within a permanent housing setting that holistic services can be rendered with continuity such that residents have access to support across a wide range of domains.

CitiLeaf believes in a “housing first” model which is an approach that a homeless person’s primary concern is to obtain stable housing and that other issues such as substance abuse, mental illness, physical illness, etc. can only be addressed once housing is obtained. Housing is healthcare! We strongly believe in the theory of harm reduction as the best practice toward sobriety for those struggling with the disease of addiction, not treatment as an exchange for housing.

At the end of 2017, there were 125,884 individuals in NYC living with HIV/AIDS. 1,343 individuals died that year. In light of these high figures and a growing, research-supported awareness that stable housing is a crucial component of healthcare for people living with HIV/AIDS, it is essential that agencies like CitiLeaf be accessible to those in need.

*All data collected for the Federal HMIS will be strictly protected and confidential.

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