Meds, Mind, Body & Benefits > Insurance, Benefits Programs & HIV

Ask and You Shall Receive

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oksikoko:
OK, I'm cutting back on the drama, but since I made such a big deal of it, I'll wrap up the story here. This actually may be of benefit to anyone finding themselves in my situation.

Everyone told me not to bother with HASA (HIV/AIDS Services Administration) because I was too healthy (?) and made too much money (?). I listened to them because everyone I knew who had used HASA services did seem to have a rougher time than me (originally). As things progressed and my situation got worse and worse, that changed, and I was feeling a little bitter (to say the least) that people who seemed OK to me had access to services that I couldn't. I feel terrible about this, but I include it anyway. We can't be proud of every thought that goes through our heads.

Two weeks ago, my therapist at GMHC, realizing that I couldn't focus on anything because all I could think about was "where will I sleep" and "it's -140 degrees outside", suggested I try HASA anyway. What could it hurt?

I gathered the documentation from the old doctor and the health department (where I tested positive in the first place) and filled out the application with a case worker last week, with the understanding that it would be faxed or whatever. I no longer have a phone, so it was tough to stay in contact. I decided to just call HASA myself on Wednesday. It had been over a week, and I really just wanted to hear "No, you're not eligible, but let us connect you with [hopefully some other agency]".

They had never heard of me and promised that if an application had been submitted, it would be in the system - same day, same hour even. You get entered immediately because you get a number which follows from the minute your papers are touched.

So, they asked me to come in the next day. I went in on Thursday afternoon, around 2. I should have known better (always go to this sort of place at 10AM), because by the time my number was called, etc., it was 4. From 4 to 5, the case worker was tracking down my doctor (I mentioned this in another thread) or a social worker or anyone who could confirm that my paperwork was authentic. It's a formality, but I totally understand. It became clear that it wasn't going to happen, so as she asked if I had a place to sleep (I did) and said come in tomorrow morning with all your papers.

I went to the health department for a meningitis vaccine (round 2) and asked for official copies of all my paperwork. I walked this over to HASA, and within an hour, I had been placed in an SRO and set up with a benefits card for food.

That's all it took. I've been stressed beyond my own belief for two months, and all I needed to do was go to HASA. I've been to 6 separate agencies/nonprofits and everyone said "you need HASA, but don't bother, you're not eligible". I travelled all over the City with paperwork, while the HASA office is 20 blocks from where I had been staying. W. T. F? They even gave me round-trip "carfare" (a Metro card) for any trip I had to make there.

Had I gone right away, they would have paid for my old apartment, and I could have stayed. The rent was $100 less than the maximum allowed. I would still have my phone and a few "valuables" that I sold out of desperation. And all I had to do was take my paperwork to HASA.

So, I'm really glad my therapist at GMHC made that suggestion. I don't know why my application wasn't submitted the week earlier or why everyone told me I wasn't eligible, but I'll worry about that later. I'm also not going to be upset about what I lost because of waiting too long. I have what I still have and I can keep it.

So! Long story long: I live in an SRO in Harlem in room with a cot and a locking door. For those outside NYC and for middle class New Yorkers (haha), SRO means single resident occupancy and it's a form of public housing. I've spent time in them before, but never as a resident. Some have private bathrooms and kitchenettes, some have curfews, some allow visitors. Mine is just a room - no visitors allowed and no residents allowed in each others' rooms. They issued me sheets and a roll of toilet paper. There's one bathroom on the floor - like a коммуналка (if you speak Russian), and there's a curfew. It was good enough for millions of Soviets, and it's more than good enough for me.  It's very Oz, now that I think of it. ;)

The only "complaints" are: no Internet (haha, first world problem) and I was awakened by some homeless crazy guy (not me, some other homeless crazy guy) screaming at my door at 1AM. I think he was looking for the guy who used to live there. No complaints, really, because I went back to sleep, and I can find a library or something for more permanent Internet access. Right now I'm at my old place getting some things I left there. No one has moved in here yet, so I might be able to stay a couple of nights before March 1. No reason to except that it's closer to an office I have to be at on Monday morning. I'm here because I requested emergency housing, but I don't have to stay here forever, and the restrictions (curfew, no guests) aren't because of anything I've done. This is just the SRO that had space yesterday for emergency placements, and those are just the rules that apply to everyone. I wouldn't mind being in an SRO permanently (or until things turn around), but I don't want to stay in this one forever. They seem to think I'd rather find an apartment (for which I'm eligible), but I don't know. An SRO seems better if I had my own bathroom. This is nicer than my old apartment, but it's one of the less nice SROs I've been in, so...

Moral: All's well that ends well, folks, but don't let other people handle your affairs. You are not a case to be managed, but a human being. If anyone finds themselves in NYC in a similar situation, don't hesitate to PM per se, but I can tell you who to call, who not to call and what papers you need.

Miss Philicia:
I did the HASA thing back in 2002 for a brief period while my SS disability was being processed. I got on it easy because I could dig back a decade and produce magic paperwork showing I once had <200 cd4 count. And mind you, this was before doctors had things computerized and I just happened to have xerox copies of my first year of labs. I can't remember if they stipulated that applicants needed AIDS-y numbers, just that it made approval instant. For some reason I think a friend of mine a year later got HASA and he'd never even had cd4 counts that forced him onto any HIV treatment -- he was basically a long term non-progressor.

Anyway, I guess I should have mentioned this to you earlier but I'm not 100% sure that's the route he went through (but what else could it have been?), plus I don't live in NYC any longer and neither does he since he moved to Berlin. Kind of sucks to be in an SRO though instead of your own apartment.

bmancanfly:
That sounds like a big step in the right direction.   One step at a time.

Can you be put on a waiting list for an apt.?

oksikoko:

--- Quote from: Miss Philicia on February 23, 2013, 03:05:24 PM ---I did the HASA thing back in 2002 for a brief period while my SS disability was being processed. I got on it easy because I could dig back a decade and produce magic paperwork showing I once had <200 cd4 count. And mind you, this was before doctors had things computerized and I just happened to have xerox copies of my first year of labs. I can't remember if they stipulated that applicants needed AIDS-y numbers, just that it made approval instant. For some reason I think a friend of mine a year later got HASA and he'd never even had cd4 counts that forced him onto any HIV treatment -- he was basically a long term non-progressor.

Anyway, I guess I should have mentioned this to you earlier but I'm not 100% sure that's the route he went through (but what else could it have been?), plus I don't live in NYC any longer and neither does he since he moved to Berlin. Kind of sucks to be in an SRO though instead of your own apartment.

--- End quote ---

Oh, boy! You be Boy George, and I'll be Antony.

You still need to either have had a CD4 count below 200 or have at least two opportunistic infections that are on the list. Everyone advising me talked about it like I needed to have KS or PCP before I'd be considered! While the list is very specific about which infections are opportunistic and at what stage they have to be, I easily qualified, but I only qualified because I had the right documentation of when I did and didn't have certain infections and how severe they were at the time of treatment. Luckily (haha!) for me, it turns out I'm more than eligible even though my CD4 count was high at my first (and only) reading of it: 920. My first and only VL reading was 130,000+.

It's hard to know, but those two numbers indicate that I may have still been in acute infection when I was diagnosed (which is great, and I hope it's true!). I started Stribild right away, so, in theory I probably still have a high CD4 count but low VL. Of course, the stress of these last two months would have lowered an HIV- CD4 count. ;) If that's true, though, and since I have documentation on a few things I didn't have in late summer, then I may be prone to OIs because I shouldn't have been in the shape I was in at diagnosis. This is the thinking behind letting people like me into the program, I gather. I'm the sort of person who might rapidly progress to AIDS if left homeless and stressed (I mean, aren't most people?), so it's easier on the public coffers to just give me some assistance now so I can get back into the regular workforce and start paying for my own healthcare ASAP. If I got sicker, then it would just be a downward spiral. I gather. Apparently there's still hope now. ;)

I did discover (yet another) reason to dislike Christine Quinn while Googling this morning. She opposes HASA for All apparently. I'll look into this more, so please correct me if I'm wrong there. I don't like her anyway, so I was unfairly poised to jump at that link.

The SRO isn't so bad, and it's a lot better than what I was doing last week... It's also nicer than my old room which I paid $1000 a month for with hot water and heat a rarity. If I had my own bathroom and an Internet connection, you'd probably have trouble ever getting me out of Harlem... As it is, I'm gonna see if I can get either a longer term placement in one of the ones I know of that's a bit more private.

As for the Internet: I have a MAMP setup on my laptop, so I can do development work even without a connection. Most of it needs no connection, but I have to have a server for some things. And I download all the lectures for classes I take anyway so I can watch them at 2x speed. Other than that, everything I do online is, um entertainment, and I'll just find new entertainment.

As for the bathrooms: two of the rules on the sign-in sheet were: "don't throw your garbage out the windows" and "don't urinate in bottles; use the bathrooms". I initialled them both. I hope I can live up to the high standards! ;) I think I'll invest in some sandals for the shower, though. Ew...

Oh, and finally, it's mixed use, but everyone knows there are HASA folks there. My tattoo has become more practical as identification, haha.

oksikoko:

--- Quote from: bmancanfly on February 23, 2013, 04:25:02 PM ---That sounds like a big step in the right direction.   One step at a time.

Can you be put on a waiting list for an apt.?

--- End quote ---

Thanks! :) Yeah, this changes everything. I just realized this is the first bed that's "mine" since 2003. I don't have to be nice to anyone. I don't have to fuck anyone (sorry, crass, but true). I can go to bed whenever I want without asking. I don't have to do anything but sleep. It's a great feeling. I mean, technically it belongs to the City, but I've been living in the far East Village. Bloomy or his developer friends take whatever land they want down there anyway. ;) So no change in that department!

They were surprised I asked for an SRO placement instead of taking the weekend to find an apartment (find a below-market apartment in NYC over the weekend? wtf? I don't think that's possible...). Apparently most people fight SRO placements kicking and screaming? Go figure. I was thrilled, haven't smiled so much in years.

I'm supposed to look for an apartment right away, though there's no immediate deadline. In theory I'd like to focus on getting a job now, and in theory I could do that very quickly now that housing is not a constant stress. So, in theory, I could end up moving straight out of the SRO into my own apartment that I paid for myself. In theory. I get the feeling they expect me to be in the program a while, but I don't see any reason to get too comfortable or keep getting benefits if I don't need them. I don't want a "nice" apartment. I just want one that I'm able to pay for myself, and that was looking increasingly less likely before yesterday.

This placement is under the "emergency" category, meaning they just give you a room where ever there's space so you're not outside. I did get to put Manhattan as my first choice, and luckily that worked out. I'm OK with the Bronx, and Staten Island would be fun for a larf, but I do not want to go to Brooklyn or Queens (sorry, kids). I mean, I would've happily and with no (audible) complaints, but now I don't have to pretend to be happy. Hurray. :D

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