HIV positive since 1990 … in his 23rd year.
Born in Toronto.
Moved to Vancouver many years ago and became a Nursing Coordinator in the Emergency Department.
Although Joseph identified as HIV positive in 1990 he only started medications in 2006. This is not common and is called a slow progressor. Joseph has been openly HIV positive since day 1.
In 2007 Joseph began having fatigue issues and was diagnosed as suffering from depression. In 2011 Joseph moved back to Ontario and began living with his parents just outside of Toronto. Like many people living in outlying areas, he did go to Toronto to receive medical care as well as psychological care and HIV care.
In late 2012 Joseph wanted / had to move back to Toronto. His parents were moving to a seniors care residence.
“Mount Sinai told me about McEwan House,” Joseph says. “I set up an appointment with them in the summer of 2012.” In January 2013 he received a call that an agency they sometimes partner with on programs (Fife House), had a space for him and that Fife House offered short and long-term housing solutions and support services.
Joseph’s parents were concerned that he might not find housing that:.
- Was Safe
- Was Supportive
- Could help Joseph manage his mental health and physical health
- Would not discriminate
Joseph’s parents were elated when he got housing at Fife House.
In February 2013 Joseph moved into Fife House’s Transitional Housing Program (THP). The THP provides 11 individuals with private, bachelor style units with a communal living and dining space and 24-hour support services. Fife House’s THP also provides intensive case management addressing finances, health care, housing, social recreation and transportation. “I was so happy about the support Fife House gave me,” says Joseph.
His parents were very relieved when he received the phone call. Joseph moved into his sister's for two weeks before he moved into THP because the timing wasn't perfect between his parents going into a senior’s residence and THP.
New to the big city again, Joseph felt supported and now works on his ideas to volunteer and to achieve some dreams he had about volunteering. Fife House helped that by providing encouragement and options about these goals.
Getting back on his feet meant Joseph could begin realizing his dream to give back to the community. Today, Joseph’s volunteer schedule and activities are as follows:
- Thursday morning he volunteers at the Fife House ‘Breakfast Club’
- He volunteers at the front desk at PWA and in their ‘Essentials Market’
- In the summer of 2013 Joseph was a crew volunteer for the 2013 Friends For Life Bike Rally
- Volunteered at the Fife House information booth during ‘Pride 2013’
During Joseph’s volunteer work he met someone and they are now a serious couple. They are moving in together, and Joseph is helping his partner realize his own dream of beginning University courses.
Joseph reflects, “I was able to flourish and get involved in the volunteering community. The emotional and life-skills support I received was important.”
Bi-weekly meetings with support staff helped Joseph manage:
- Finance issues
- Health Issues
Fife House is like a neighbourhood
Joseph was concerned that he would not find a supportive community… but he did at Fife House. Finding a safe place to live was the foundation for his new life back in Toronto. Moving here he was coming out of a depression – had been in the hospital before he came to Toronto. Fife House was aware of his schedule and helped him keep his appointments and treatment.
Joseph says that support at Fife House is “Like a neighbourhood – it’s like coming home. Support staff are terrific – I always feel supported. I quickly felt a sense of community – first to the staff and other clients at the Transitional Housing Project and then the breakfast club. I felt safe and secure and knew I had options to speak about my:
- Dreams…. related to living with HIV.”
While living at Fife House one of the programs Joseph accessed was the Community Kitchen. They would bulk cook together and pay $10 and take the food home.
It has been a win-win situation… for Joseph, his parents, Joseph’s new partner and the community.
“I felt so secure with the support I received. I was able to realize my dreams of volunteering at an AIDS Service Organization (ASO), and put myself out there.”
“Fife House is dear to my heart,” says Joseph, “Life is really good.”
He closes by saying, “I am a Fife House success story because of the safety and security. I was able to blossom and get treatment for mental health and my HIV… and feel physically more healthy and able to give back to the community.”