Most new diagnoses of HIV are among people who struggle with low employment opportunities and housing insecurity.
For those living with HIV, finding employment and housing can be a challenge. Employers may discriminate against people who are HIV positive. People living with HIV may also feel stigmatized and not want to work in an environment where they could potentially injure themselves or have to explain anything about their health.
Beyond HIV-specific barriers, this population also experiences negative social determinants of health that exacerbate the challenges of being HIV-positive.
In 2017, the KC Health Department received funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration, HIV/AIDS Bureau to solve the problem of unemployment and housing instability for people living with HIV in the Kansas City metropolitan area.
The goals of this program were to:
- Move people from homelessness or instability to having a safe place to live
- Move from unemployed to increasing earned income
- Achieve living happy, healthy, fully employed, stably housed lives
The HIV Services team delivered an intervention focused on increasing employment and housing stability for people living with HIV.
To help clients gain employment in an occupation that they valued, this team did the following:
- Clients met regularly with a social worker to develop a tailored employment plan, to implement that plan, and overcome any obstacles that came up.
- Staff from Catholic Charities of Kansas City/St Joseph helped clients with identification, resume writing, jobs skills, transportation, work clothes, and more.
- Catholic Charities of Kansas City/St Joseph and KC Health Department staff built relationships with organizations that hire individuals struggling with negative social determinants.
To help clients obtain stable housing, this team did the following:
- For those living on the street, fleeing violence, or with other urgent needs, an innovative, hotel voucher program was developed to provide emergency short-term housing.
- Clients received transitional housing assistance with ReStart, Inc.
- Additional assistance to find further housing options with local housing agencies SAVE, Inc and ReStart,Inc.
- Case conferenced with multiple organizations to find housing for clients.
To change the system, this team:
- Created a task force focused on improving employment and housing for people living with HIV
- Integrated employment providers into the HIV system
- Trained the current providers on employment-related issues and how to refer to employment specialists
In total, 85 of the most marginalized individuals living with HIV were served by this intervention. Of those, 75.6 percent increased earned income through employment, 75.3 percent have stable housing, 82 percent engaged in medical care, and 69 percent achieved or maintained viral load suppression.
Some individuals in this program have started to meet income thresholds where they are no longer eligible for HIV services provided by federal programs. While this is the original goal of KC Life 360, it also comes with a new set of challenges moving people off the social safety net.
For more information, visit info.umkc.edu/kclife360. The full intervention manual can be used to replicate this intervention for other populations or places.
Together, Kansas City can overcome challenges associated with employment to help all people live happy, healthy lives.