New Outreach Center Breaks Ground Near Downtown

Ground has been broken on a new $1.3 million transitional living center for local men who are HIV positive and battling drug addiction. As Houston Public Radio's Jack Williams reports, "A Caring Safe Place" will provide temporary housing for some of the city's underpriveledged.

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The organization has been providing services inside an old house in the 5th Ward northeast of downtown since 1998, but will soon double its capacity with an 8,000 square foot facility. The Reverend Stanley Phill founded "A Caring Safe Place" after his own bouts with drug addiction and homelessness.

"This is going to fit in and it will blend in to the community. It will be a home-like environment but a therapeudic community. Fifth Ward, this particular area is rated I think right number two with the highest rates of HIV and syphilis. It is a great need for this facility in this community."

The new building will have a capacity of 20 beds, up from the current capacity of 10 beds for full-time residents. A Caring Safe Place chairman Rodney Wilson says the outreach has come a long way in the past 8 years.

"With this type of state-of-the-art facility coming here, we can help and continue to assist this community to bring new life, to breath new life into this community and help those who need the help. So we're excited about this day and we just thank God for the privilege to be here and to have a place for those who need the service to come and get quality service."

The new building will sit alongside the orginal home and will include other community outreach programs. Shun Johnson is the program coordinator for A Caring Safe Place and says the organization has a track record of success in the 5th Ward.

"This organization has been a driving force in this community providing much-needed services for individuals who are HIV positive and individuals who are also working hard to overcome their drug addiction. The things that have been going on here have definitely been life-impacting and this expansion will just allow us to serve more individuals and impact more lives."

Most of the money for the project is coming through a grant from the city's Housing for Persons with Aids Program, known as HOPWA. Dena Gray runs that program and says the new facility fills a need in Houston.

"If you look at the housing-stock in terms of special needs populations, which is what HIV and AIDS fall under, then you'll see we're really under the mark when it comes to comparisons to other cities our size. Adding additional bedding in any capacity is always going to be a boost for us. It's a great resource for the 5th Ward community and a great resource for the people who are needing the service."

The new facility is due to be completed in June.

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