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February 24, 1994
Homeless People With AIDS to Find Shelter In Yorkville

by Aviva Patz Jebian

The people at the non-profit Doe Fund want to provide homeless AIDS patients with their own, full-service residential community house on East 86th Street -- much to the chagrin of some neighbors who say they don't want it near them. "There is a desperate need for this program," said Harriet Carr McDonald, Director of Development for the Doe Fund. "The city is currently housing homeless AIDS patients in roach-infested SROs where they get no services and at a great expense to taxpayers, about $1,000 per month. Others are just lying on the sidewalks." With a loan from the city's Department of Housing, Preservation and Development, The Doe Fund recently bought a building to house "A Better Place," a residence for homeless people with AIDS. The program slated for the building is modeled after the widely praised Bailey House in Greenwich Village, the only residential program in the city tailored for AIDS patients. On the surface, A Better Place sounds ideal; three meals a day, preventative health care and hospital-based medical treatment through an affiliation with Mt. Sinai's AIDS Center. The residents will be referred by the city's Department of AIDS Services, and applicants will have to go through a rigorous screening process before being accepted. Though local Community Board 8 officially supports the program, it still has some reservations about The Doe Fund. "Community Board 8 has grave concerns about the leadership and organization structure of the sponsoring agency and potential conflicts of interest," wrote Community Board 8 chair Barbara Chocky in a June 1992 letter to former Human Resource Administration (HRA) Commissioner Barbara Sabol. The conflict of interest, CB8 says, stems from the composition of A Better Place's Board of Directors -- which has three members of Harriet Carr McDonald's family. Chocky said the board is also disconcerted by the fact that the advisory council set up by The Doe Fund had only one meeting, and that A Better Place does have the potential to become disruptive. "I think the board's biggest concern is that the program be well-run. It should be good for the people with AIDS and good for the community," said Chocky. The board's support for the program is dependent upon The Doe Fund making sure A Better Place properly takes care of medical waste and that local people in need be given priority placement. The Doe Fund has received accolades for its operation of Ready, Willing & Able, a Brooklyn-based program that houses, trains and employs homeless adults (most with histories of substance abuse and incarceration) at a savings to the city. Praised for its success and cost efficiency, the program recently garnered the attention of The New York Times, ABC News and several local television news stations. Ready, Willing and Able was also recognized as a national innovative model homeless program by HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros, who awarded the organization nearly $2 million in federal McKinney funds to continue the program. Assemblyman Pete Grannis' position on A Better Place echoes those of the community. "We haven't opposed the project," he said. We are predisposed to support projects like A Better Place, but there are lingering concerns. We won't hesitate to support the project when it is well-run and well-defined." Some opponents have been less accommodating. Eugene Banta, a New Jersey resident practicing law across the street from 33 E. 85th St. and an officer of Residents and Merchants for a Livable Yorkville (RAMLY), feels that such projects could be put in less densely-populated areas, such as on Ward's Island or on the periphery of the city. "You should put facilities that do the same job in areas which are not going to disturb large segments of the population," says Banta. "Why should we put them right in the middle of the city where normal people are living?" he asks. Harriet McDonald sees the opposite to A Better Place as "honestly, about the people." She mention that The Doe Fund collected at least 300 local signatures in support of the project. and has received more than 100 donations from both residents and merchants in the community.

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