By Jerri Stroud, BBB Editor
From its beginning in 1988, Doorways has sought to help those in crisis due to living with HIV/AIDS.
The main mission is to help them find housing and provide other services to improve their quality of life and health outcomes.
Last year, Doorways served more than 2,000 of more than 5,000 affected people in 132 Missouri and Illinois counties. There’s a waiting list of more than 200 people for its housing and services.
Doorways has seven buildings in St. Louis where it provides independent living apartments, a 24-hour residential care facility for the sickest clients as well as in-home services for clients living on their own. In addition, Doorways has contracts with similar service providers in Columbia, Mo., and Springfield, Ill.
“Most of our clients live in their own homes and apartments, and we engage with them on an as-needed basis,” said Opal M. Jones, president and CEO. Doorways can provide them with rent, mortgage and utility assistance, and it has an emergency housing program to try to prevent homelessness. The services helped more than 900 people pull back from the brink of homelessness.
“There is still a lot of stigma with this disease,” Jones said, and many clients don’t want to be identified as HIV positive. The stigma kept Doorways from seeking the spotlight until recently, when it worked with the Post-Dispatch on several stories about clients. “I realize that we can’t continue to go under the radar, especially given that HIV is not the priority it once was,” she said.
Jones said the need is still great, despite the strides that have been made in treating the disease. Many HIV positive people struggle to pay for their medicine and fall into poverty when their resources are exhausted. Others lose their jobs due to illness.
Much of Doorways’ funding comes from the government, including Medicaid and “pass-through” money from state and local governments. About $1 million of its $7 million budget comes from foundations, individual contributions and fund-raising events.
Doorways provides training to its 76 staff members in topics related to HIV, providing care and counseling. It also provides training for staff in dealing with their own mental health due to the stress of caring for clients with the disease. Staff members also get training in fair housing law and customer service.
Doorways also trains clients in housing law, since many face housing discrimination. Its Consumer Advisory Group meets a few times a year with program directors and presents a report to Doorways’ board of directors. The board includes a client who was formerly homeless. Jones believes it’s important to have a client’s point of view at board meetings.
Clients also are asked to respond to a survey every year for each of Doorways’ programs. “We want to know how they’re experiencing their housing situation, the barriers they face and what we’ve done well and not done well,” Jones said.
“We look at and analyze trends,” Jones said. “Then we adjust staffing and resources to make it better for clients.”
Jones said she asked employees to come up with a list of maxims for Doorways as an organization as well as for staff and clients. “The staff wrote them: They got together and hashed it out,” she said. The resulting list – too long to reprint here – emphasizes being fair, consistent and professional.
Jones has a favorite: “Yesterday is over. We allow ourselves and others a fresh start every day.”
Profiles of BBB Accredited Businesses and BBB Accredited Charities are created as part of BBB’s TORCH Award process and are not intended as an endorsement. To register for this year’s TORCH Awards luncheon on Nov. 13, go to http://www.bbb.org/stlouis/events.