Since its inception in 1990, Housing Works has provided housing in combination with medical, dental and mental health care, meals, job training, drug treatment, HIV prevention education, and social support for homeless men, women, and children living with HIV and AIDS. Housing Works’ best-known businesses are Housing Works Thrift Shops located throughout New York City, and the Housing Works Bookstore Café in Soho.
At the Housing Works Cylar House on Manhattan Lower East Side, the Crown Princess was taken on a tour by CEO and co-founder of Housing Works, Charles King, and Eric Sawyer, co-founder of Housing Works and Civil Society Partnership Advisor at the UN Secretariat of the UNAIDS office in New York. She also met with clients and was invited to the apartments of two of the residents, David and Fran.
See photos from the visit.
The Cylar House model is replicated in several cities in the US. It pairs a medical clinic, an adult day treatment program and a residential tower with 36 apartment units in one building. The Crown Princess also visited the kitchen for The Works Catering, which both earns income to support client needs and provides training in the food services industry to help clients return to the work force as contributing members of society. The Cylar House was founded in 1997 and is named after Housing Works co-founder Keith D. Cylar, who died of AIDS-related causes in 2004.
“Housing Works is committed to serving all people living with HIV/AIDS, including those deemed too challenging to serve”, said CEO Charles King.
Housing Works is one of the only residences that houses active drug users, as long as they do no harm to others and participate in harm reduction activities; they have a needle exchange program at their residences. Housing Works also has an adult education program and job training program that help clients get high school equivalency diplomas, support college attendance and help clients return to the work force. More than one third of Housing Works staff members are former clients.
One of the issues that CEO Charles King focused on in his presentation to the Crown Princess, was the disproportionate impact that HIV/AIDS has had on marginalized communities, including youth, people of colour, active drug users, homeless people and sexual minorities; “Wherever possible, Housing Works endeavors to reach and serve these marginalized communities. More than 50% of its Board of Directors must be people of colour, and, unlike many other AIDS organizations, must include two client representatives.”
“I am very impressed with what I have seen here at Housing Works and Cylar House today, especially how you have created space for everyone. Everybody matters - no matter where you come from and who you are,” the Crown Princess said after the visit.
The Crown Princess’s social engagement is evident in her efforts to promote inclusion and tolerance. She was appointed Special Representative for UNAIDS in April 2006, and had expressed a particular wish to visit an HIV/Aids treatment center during her stay in New York. She has often said that people living with HIV must be empowered and given the basic human rights, not only to safe shelter and basic food security - but also access to services including information on HIV, testing, treatment care and support.