HIV-positive residents at a Salvation Army shelter in Liberty City claim they are being forced back onto the streets because of bigotry and budget cuts. Two people living at the charity's command center on NW 38th Street say they have been asked to leave, have been insulted by staff, and might have to turn to prostitution to support themselves.
"This isn't the first time a lot of us have been on the street. We know what we might have to do," one resident says, referring to prostitution. "They are risking the health of Miami-Dade County by sending us back out there."
The Salvation Army adamantly denies the allegations of discrimination or insults. But a spokeswoman confirms that an expiring contract means at least ten residents — all part of the Here Is Hope program for the HIV-positive — must move out.
Salvation Army's HIV-Positive Residents Kicked Out Over Budget Cuts
"We are not forcing them out," says Judith Mori, the Salvation Army's director of development. "These ten people belong to a specific contract which [has not been renewed]."
Mori adds, "As a prevention measure, we are finding new homes for these people." But as of Monday morning, at least three residents were still facing eviction without another place to stay.
Two HIV-positive residents who contacted Riptide say Salvation Army employees aren't just booting them but also insulting them on the way out. (Riptide agreed to protect their identities because they fear retaliation.)
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As the move-out deadline approached, some lower-level employees mocked the residents, one man says. "They say, 'So what are you going to do when you're back on the street?" the resident says. "They are using guerrilla tactics, fear tactics, pushing people around in order to get us out."
Another HIV-positive resident agrees. "There's no 'Good morning.' No 'Hi, how are you doing?' " a female resident says. "When I went to pick up my medicines, they told me: 'You know y'all got to be out.' "
Edwin O'Dell, a spokesman for Jackson Health Systems, says he was unaware of any problems at the center. "We've had a very good working relationship with the Salvation Army for many years, and we are not aware of any mass discharge of clients."
The residents say they just want to stay off the streets. "The seven of us [HIV-positive residents] that are left are working very hard with other organizations to find housing," the male resident says, "but we need time."