We Need a Little Help From Our Friends…
It’s Day #6 post Hurricane Sandy and the outlook for Bailey-Holt House is grim. Although power was restored to most of the City, we’re learning that in a building like ours, it’s not as simple as turning on the lights.
The steps to recovery for Bailey-Holt House are excruciatingly complex and time-consuming. First we must obtain a 75,000 watt generator, which I’ve learned arrives on a flat bed truck because of its size. Then electricians have to hook up temporary lighting so a licensed debris removal company can clear damp, salt-water soaked debris from the basement and ground floor offices.
Next comes the hard part. Once debris is cleared, electricians and plumbers have to assess damages to major building systems from basement to roof and see if the elevator can be repaired. We have already been told to replace the two boilers in the basement. They, along with washers and dryers, sat in tidal basin water for 48 hours.
This process could take weeks or months. We have to order new equipment, which may be scarce, have it installed and possibly replace the electrical system and elevator. Residents cannot return until all of this is done.
We found temporary housing for all 44 of the men and women who reside at Bailey-Holt House but many of these accommodations are unsuitable long-term. Many of our folks not only have AIDS but also kidney, liver, pulmonary, cardiac diseases and cancer. Some have two or three. Several rely on life-prolonging dialysis, methadone, mental health services and drug treatment. Without full subway service and staff nearby, these services can be difficult to access.
Friends and family who offered a night or two of respite are tired. Some are asking our folks to leave. Many hosts too are poor and cannot afford to feed another mouth. One client reported that her ex-husband took her in only to demand she pay him. Our female and transgender clients are particularly vulnerable given the violence many have suffered in their past. For some, the only place to go is back to former friends or partners in situations where they may be exposed to domestic violence or drug use. The trauma of losing the one place they felt safe will take its toll.
Bailey House staff are working double-time to try to rehouse folks and find them the second and perhaps third placement in only six days. We have been hampered, like everyone else, with the loss of subway service and internet access. Cell phones are dead. Some City agency programs are also down or closed.
Everyone misses home, Bailey-Holt House that majestic mothership of AIDS housing that sits at the bottom of Christopher Street. Ironically its location across from the river that makes it magical was its Achilles heel. We will reopen, hopefully soon. We are survivors.
We are incredibly grateful to Speaker Christine Quinn and her amazing staff. They have been with us every step of the way. We also extend our thanks to Representative Jerrold Nadler, whose staff will help us start the hard work of filing for relief. More thanks goes out to the Imperial Court of NY, the first organization to donate funds, and to the M*A*C* AIDS Fund, which followed with a $25,000 grant pledge. You are our angels in the storm!
Please donate to help us bring our folks back home. $5, $10, $100 or $500 will help with the recovery efforts. Estimates run as high as $500,000 for repairs and that could grow. We need a little help from our friends.