Harold lives in Houston, TX. I was introduced to him through the Lord of the Street Episcopal Church and Community of the Streets Outreach. Their mission is to minister to the spiritual, emotional, physical and social needs of individuals living in Houston who are homeless, in crisis or in transition. Harold came to them for assistance last year.
Born in Denver, CO Harold received a teaching degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He never used his degree as he got the travel bug and became a Flight Attendant. In 1991 he retired after 20 years as an international Flight Attendant.
He now does some work gardening for a small group of clients as his age, 60 years, makes it difficult to get a job. But that’s just his work history; his personal history is a bit more complicated.
Harold was diagnosed with HIV in 1983. He contracted it from his long-term partner who became infected with it before the virus was ever recognized. His partner died of AIDS in 1985. Harold’s virus has not turned into AIDS partly because he is diligent in taking care of himself. He doesn’t drink or smoke, and he walks and rides his bike to stay in shape. He takes his AIDS cocktail of medication religiously. And while this can be quite expensive he is grateful that the State of Texas has a program which pays for it.
The challenge comes when he becomes ill or injured due to something that is determined to be not directly related to his HIV positive status. He has Medicare but that only pays for so much. In 2003 Harold was diagnosed with Hepatitis. He was treated with chemotherapy which was quite hard on him. Last year Harold was treated for skin cancer. He is grateful to have his health back.
Harold received housing assistance through the AIDS Foundation of Houston which had a grant from the City of Houston. Unfortunately, due to funding cuts, the grant was eliminated in 2010. Harold heard about Lord of the Street from a friend. He contacted them but was denied assistance as there were others who required help more immediately. He understood as he knows many are struggling these days. He tried hard to stay afloat but eventually fell behind in his rent payment. He was grateful when the city reinstated the grant to the AIDS Foundation at the end of last year, although he received less than he had before due to the overwhelming needs of the community.
His latest concern is that the grant expires again in October of this year. He doesn’t know if it will be renewed as the city of Houston has had to lay-off city workers due to lack of money. So Harold prepares. He is applying for a housing program through the State of Texas although he is aware that there is a two-year waiting list. He has heard that the Houston Area Urban League just received more funding so he’s arranged a meeting with them next week. “You have to be tenacious in keeping your head above water,” he says. “God wouldn’t bring you this far only to leave you.”
Harold is one of the most positive people I have spoken with. He is a spiritual man who is grateful to his church for their support over the years. When speaking about the challenges he has faced he says, “That’s my lot in life, but it’s o.k. Life offers many challenges, be positive and caring.”