Content trigger warning: sexual assault/rape
As you prepare to celebrate the holidays with family and friends, I want to tell you a story about one man whose life was transformed because of your generosity this year.
Ron* grew up in rural Texas, in a place where “gay pride” is still more of a hope than a reality. Everywhere he turned as a kid, he got the message that something about him was bad and shameful.
He absorbed that message. It sank all the way into his bones. He was bullied, taunted, and hated. His parents threw him out of the house as a teenager. Not long after that, he was raped.
The HIV diagnosis was the final blow. Ron didn’t just believe — he knew — that he was unworthy of love or happiness. He self-medicated his pain with narcotics as his mental health grew steadily worse. Life on the streets brought more violence and trauma. Years of homelessness stretched into decades. He was … lost.
And then he fell off his HIV meds and started catching every infection that blew through. He lost weight. He got sicker and sicker. Ron was 53 years old. He had PTSD as a result of the rape. He had no income, no career, no family, friends, home, or savings.
But thanks to you, he wasn’t alone. He came to Doug’s House and began to get regular rest, good nutrition and daily care. He got back on his HIV meds — for good this time. Ron’s health was restored. We call it the “Doug’s House Miracle” when that happens. Our social work staff helped him apply for Social Security, which gave him an income and access to insurance for the first time in his adult life.
When Ron had recovered his strength, he moved into one of our transitional housing units. And thanks to one of our community partners, he began talking regularly with a counselor to examine his feelings of anger and grief.
Kids like Ron grew up believing that their families would never be proud of them — that they could never live “regular” family lives themselves. They grew up being told that being gay was something to hide. Or to change, if you could.
Have we ever faced up to the damage those messages did to generations of kids? I don’t think so. But thanks to you, people like Ron — whose life was so damaged by those hurtful beliefs — have a place and an opportunity to heal.
Today, Ron has been sober for almost nine months. He’s dating someone, which is a brand new experience. He says he’s getting used to living in a community of people who accept and like him exactly as he is. Slowly but surely, he’s recovering from a lifetime of shame and rejection.
That wouldn’t have been possible without your financial support. There is no line item in the county’s budget to help homeless people with HIV regain their health — we couldn’t provide even one day of care to people like Ron without you.
But your investment also has a significant impact on our entire community’s response to the HIV crisis. People like Ron — who stayed off his HIV meds for years while still engaging in high-risk behavior — are very likely to spread the infection to others. Making that lasting connection to HIV care lowers that risk by a remarkable 96% — about as sure a thing as you can get.
Your generosity saves and transforms individual lives like Ron’s — and continue to fight the front-line battle against new HIV infections in our community. Thank you.