The Best Medicine
When I typed “… is the best medicine” into Google, it told me:
- Sleep is the best medicine
- Stress Kills, or Meditation as Medication
- Why exercise is the best medicine
- Laughter boosts the immune system better than Vitamin C
But all of these answers assume people have something that too many people in Georgia do not have today: a stable place to live. Without warmth, rest, food and water, even lifesaving medicine is a luxury. A good friend once pointed out to me, “If you do not know where you are going to sleep, you will spend all day trying to solve that one problem. Aside from eating, nothing else matters.”
Essentially, housing is the first and best medicine. Housing stability is the first and most important part of treatment for any illness, and especially those that attack your immune system, like HIV/AIDS. When people living with HIV/AIDS receive housing assistance, they are 96% more likely to get and stay healthy than people who live in insecurity. (Link to Research)
The benefits of housing are indisputable. People sleep better in a bed than on the streets. Food needs to be stored in a refrigerator. A roof and walls protect from rain, wind, heat or cold. Doors with locks prevent loss of your medicine or shoes. Running water washes away dirt and contagions.
This is why Living Room provides tangible housing assistance: a check written to Georgia Power for missed electricity payments, rent subsidies paid directly to a landlord, placement in a supportive housing program, or voucher for one week in a motel. This solid, physical, literal place-to-lie-down is often the very first medical treatment for someone whose immune system has been ravaged by the AIDS virus.
Having a place to live gives people hope. That is why we work so tirelessly to end homelessness for people living with HIV/AIDS in Georgia. Because first, people need a place. That room to live provides freedom to think about something other than their immediate physical safety. Housing is the best medicine because without it, nothing else matters.
When people living with HIV talk about what housing means to them, they teach us that housing is so much more than just a shower, clean bed, medicine cabinet, and doors. Pebbles described the relief of knowing that her sons would have a safe place to go after school each day when she qualified for a year of rental assistance. James described the joy he feels when he wakes up in the morning knowing that he will return that evening to his apartment at Jerusalem House. LaMar proudly reported finishing his GED and studying business while living at Edgewood center.
Housing is even more than physical safety and dignity. Housing is a starting point for making future plans. Once someone has a place to sleep for the next few weeks, the next steps for their life may not be clear at all. The transition into living in stable housing invites people to think about what will happen next week, next month, and next year. People need companions and professionals to support their entire journey to health. Doctors and nurses prescribe, test, and care; case managers spend many hours helping with budget planning, transportation, financial literacy, housing options, health care plans, applications for supportive services, long-term goals, and simply encouraging people when they are down.
Once someone is living in a safe home, feeling hopeful, and beginning to make plans for the future, they can schedule to meet with their doctors regularly. They can develop a relationship with their pharmacist and fill their pill bottles monthly. They can cook healthy meals and sleep through the night. These simple steps are the foundation to living well with HIV, and Living Room helps people take the next step by providing housing, health, and hope until we have ended homelessness for every person in Georgia who lives with HIV/AIDS.