HIV + Homelessness in San Francisco

My time at HIVE has taught me a significant amount about how one must advocate for social causes within the network of an institution. As mentioned in a previous blog post, HIVE disrupts the assumed benevolence of medical care because even working within a network that is meant to help people—the medical institution, for example—there still is a lot of prejudice and oppression within the institution.

One case recently is the changes that are and have been taking place in regards to providing housing for San Francisco’s homeless population. There are many details of these changes that I know little about, but the essence of the changes is prioritizing housing for those who are living on the streets and have not had indoor residence for a certain amount of time. But homelessness does not always mean living on the streets. Moreover, these changes are redefining what it means to be homeless and are, in effect, marginalizing other strategies of survival. For many pregnant women, actually living on the streets is not a viable option, and while they still are without a home, they find residence with emergency housing, with friends, in their car, etc. The changes that are taking place within the housing network in San Francisco are indubitably pertinent to HIVE patients who are either homeless or marginally housed and employ these methods of survival. When the news of these developments broke, the HIVE team got to work on pushing back against the changes and continuing to support the patients who were already or were to be affected. This New York Times article explains more about San Francisco homelessness.  Another San Francisco-based organization—Homeless Prenatal Program—is doing similar work.

A photo from an HPP article where the mother featured writes that “homelessness comes in all forms.”
A graphic from The North American Housing & HIV/AIDS Research Summit Series (2012).

Advocating for vulnerable populations takes work, energy and dedication. It relies heavily on resiliency. Because the work that HIVE does is so comprehensive and is not limited to the medicasphere, there is an active energy that is present in each member of the HIVE team. In other words, this work is not passive and each HIVE team member is active in their work and advocacy. When I think about what I have learned so far about myself in the workplace, I think a lot about HIVE’s social worker. As stated before, the HIVE team is composed of people with different career backgrounds so as to provide the most comprehensive care they can. I think specifically about HIVE’s social worker because she works most directly with the effects of institutional changes such as those taking place in the housing network. There is no doubt in my mind that she is working tirelessly for the safety and well-being of HIVE patients. The way she speaks of the obstacles that face HIVE patients, and combatting those obstacles, as well as the way she speaks of their successes strikes a chord with me. I know that whatever field I enter, whatever career path I may take, I want to have the same energy that she has with her in working day to day advocating for and supporting vulnerable populations.