In late 2004, a group of concerned citizens conducted a focus group of six HIV homeless individuals. The response was clear: Although they wished to live in a community environment with other people living with HIV, they wanted their own furnished apartment. They all felt they were capable of handling the care of their own apartment. They were all in full agreement and adamant that they needed a provider to be on site at the building to help manage the behavioral health and medical issues that they all conceded that they struggled with daily. In addition, they wanted on site brunch and dinner meals, medication monitoring/dispensing, case management, group meetings such as substance use counseling, educational classes, support groups, and mental health counseling, homemaker and home health aide services available if needed and planned leisure activities both in the home and the community.
When these focus group results were presented to the other people that would eventually be known as the founding board members of The Open Door, they all said, “we can do something about that,” and that’s how The Open Door was started. The first meeting was held in January 2005 and by April 2006, The Open Door financed it's first building, a 15 unit apartment building. The Open Door resident moved in June 1st 2006.
The founders of The Open Door are key staff members from the region’s leading AIDS Service organizations, including the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s HIV/AIDS Program, and Allegheny General Hospital’s Positive Health Clinic. Our board is inclusive of an infectious disease physician, two HIV social workers, one therapist, a landlord, a grant writer and two project managers for HIV programs. From our experience in the field of HIV, we saw the most significant barrier to positive clinical outcomes for people living with HIV being homelessness among our patients with substance use, mental health, and criminal background issues. These chaotic living situations make it virtually impossible for individuals to maintain clinical care appointments, or to keep track of complicated medication regimens. This particular group of homeless persons is not currently being served by any program in the southwestern region.
The building is a 15 unit apartment building with one apartment serving as The Open Door office. The building is located within the Pittsburgh city limits, but due to the privacy and protection needs of the residents, the specific location cannot be disclosed. Each unit is furnished with a bed, fully equipped kitchen, living room and dining room. Residents also have a television and radio. The building is in need of several exterior and interior repairs. With the generous giving of donors and other citizens, we hope to complete those repairs. Click here if you wish to donate to The Open Door.