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January 17, 2008

 

ASC Peer Educators Denise and Claudia help to keep ASC's Clothing Room running smoothly, and invite you to donate to our Basic Needs Program today.

Nine out of ten ASC clients live in poverty. Having served low-income people for two decades, we know that it's necessary to meet a person's basic food, hygiene, and clothing needs before we can deliver effective HIV prevention and care.

With that in mind, ASC launched our Basic Needs Program in 1994. The program includes an onsite food pantry, daily hot lunch program, clothing bank, take-home hygiene kits, and home starter kits. These services provide a bridge to other ASC programs like case management, crisis intervention, housing placement assistance, HIV testing, treatment adherence support, and substance abuse counseling. Most importantly, ASC's Basic Needs Program can help pave a path towards self-sufficiency.

"Poverty and HIV are interrelated," says Fulvia Alvelo, ASC Co-Director of Prevention Services. "The people we serve are survivors, struggling to cope with HIV, poverty, substance abuse, mental illness, and homelessness. Some are afraid to access services because of their immigration status."

"The problem is growing," adds Alvelo. "We're seeing more people without benefits. Shelters are overpopulated and no longer serve hot meals. Food banks and churches are overwhelmed and their resources are diminishing. They're sending people to us for food and clothing."

Every month ASC's food pantry provides up to 100 people with a three-day supply of nutritional groceries, including seasonal produce. For people in shelters or SROs who don't have cooking facilities, we provide ready-to-eat packaged or fresh foods. ASC also serves a hot, nutritious meal to our clients every day.

Our Clothing Room offers clients a change of clothes, an outfit for a job interview, sweaters for cold weather, and whatever other articles of clothing they might need. And our "survival kits" include toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo, and other personal hygiene products that many people living in homeless shelters do not have access to on their own. "All of these services offer opportunities to engage clients, identify their needs and connect them with our services," explains Alvelo.

By offering help in a friendly, non-judgmental way, ASC's Basic Needs Program also builds trust among clients whose experiences with other agencies may have made them wary of utilizing services. "People come in here to get clothes, but they get much more than that," says Denise Epps, an ASC Peer Educator who helps to run the Clothing Room. "Our attitude is friendly, so people open up to us about their problems. They can talk openly about homelessness, the need for substance abuse services, or whatever's on their minds. Once we find them the right clothes, we connect them to ASC's case managers who help them with their other needs."

Claudia Rich, another ASC Peer who helps out in the Clothing Room, agrees. "Our job is not just to help clients find clothes, but to make them comfortable and give them some positive input," she says. People come to us in hard times, when their self-esteem is down. We respect them as individuals and give them the help they need."

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