Ottawa’s only transition house for people living with HIV will close September 1st.
Bruce House says the high cost of running the facility and the changing needs of its clients are behind the closure. For nearly three decades, Bruce House has operated a specially-equipped transition house in Ottawa’s west end to provide round the clock care for people living with HIV.
But this past year has been the “perfect storm”, Bruce House says, in terms of financial demands and so, that house will close in two weeks’ time.
On a quiet street in Westboro, the Transition House has offered support and sanctuary to those living with HIV.
The program opened in 1988, and over the years, offered people with AIDS a place to live and often to die. But research has helped change the outcome of those with AIDS who are now living with HIV.
“We have people who are coming to us who are healthy,” says Doug Cooper, the Manager of client Programs and Services with Bruce House, “but they are dealing with mental health and addiction issues so that’s where we are looking to go in the future.”
That means as of September 1st, the Transition House will close. The clients currently living there will be moved elsewhere and 6 staff members will lose their jobs.
The 7 bedroom house in Westboro costs about $300,000 a year to operate, with rent, utilities and round the clock staffing. That’s about a third of the total operating budget of Bruce House.
Bruce House stresses, though, that clients will still continue to receive support through its two other programs: the Supported Independent Living Program or SLIP, that offers 35 subsidized apartments throughout Ottawa, and the Rehabilitation and Supportive Episodic Transition Program or (REST) that offers rehabilitation and short-term respite care.
“It is a home away from home for people living with HIV,” says Inoua Haoua, with the AIDS Committee of Ottawa about the Transition House closing, “It’s closing, it’s really bad.”
Inoua says with more than 4-thousand people currently living with HIV in the capital, that Transition Program has been instrumental in helping them survive.
“I saw how many people went through the Transition house,” says Inoua, “and how many they got on their feet and if it wasn’t for the Transition House, they wouldn’t be here today.”
“We’re looking at different options moving forward with different programming,” explains Doug Cooper, “but right now, the Transition House as it is, is not what’s needed.”
Bruce House says most of the money to run the Transition House came from donations. With proceeds falling from their fundraisers, some tough economic decisions had to be made. The organization is hoping three upcoming fundraisers will help improve their financial situation. On August 20, the Arts Court Theatre will host “Country Cares for Bruce House” with country singer Drake Jensen (www.artscourt.ca/events/country-cares-for-bruce-house/) August 26th at Riverrain Park from noon to 5 p.m. is the annual Drag & Balls Softball Tournament (www.facebook.com/DragandBalls/) and the National Capital Pride Run. (www.ncpr.ca)