A Tradition of Caring, Love and Respect Toward Those Living With HIV/AIDS in Waukesha County
Richard’s Place, Inc. was founded by Corrie Fulwiler in 1996 in memory of her good friend Richard C., who passed away from AIDS in 1995. Due to the stigma of HIV/AIDS at the time, Richard initially faced his illness alone, as many people with HIV/AIDS continue to do to this day. Through his courage and the support of Corrie, Richard faced his situation bravely, eventually confided his illness with his family, and died peacefully in a loving environment surrounded by family and friends. Through the experience of supporting Richard in both his fight against AIDS as well as his efforts to accept his HIV/AIDS status without shame, Corrie made a commitment to Richard’s memory to found an organization to assist people both infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.
The original concept behind Richard’s Place, was to build a large log home, with private rooms and communal living space, located on several acres in a semi-rural setting close to the health care settings available in the City of Waukesha. The facility would provide 24 hour staffing with supportive care to meet the ongoing health, nutrition and socialization needs of persons with HIV/AIDS, in a supportive, respectful and dignified home-like environment. Richard’s Place would also provide hospice care to those individuals who are crossing the bridge from life to death. To reach this eventual goal, Richard’s Place took the pragmatic steps of collaborating locally, and beginning small, but with an eye towards working to this goal in the future.
After two years of planning and fund raising, Richard’s Place, Inc. partnered with the City of Waukesha Housing Authority (WHA) to secure a HUD McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance grant under the Continuum of Care Transitional Supportive Housing Program to open a four-bed 24-hour Supervised home for persons with HIV/AIDS. HUD awarded the WHA a John J. Gunther Award of Excellence for Program Innovation in creation of one of the first facilities of its kind to open in the country funded under the HUD Continuum of Care concept. The grant to the WHA secured approximately 2/3 of the funding to support the staffing needs of Richard’s Place, Inc. and the WHA also provided a 4-bedroom single family home for the new facility at no cost to the organization. Other initial funding sources were The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, The Elton John AIDS Foundation, The Jane and Lloyd Pettit Foundation, and the Stackner Foundation.
The early residents of Richard’s Place were often extremely ill, not receiving appropriate health care or daily living support, and usually living in isolation and/or inappropriate housing. Often, they were turned away by nursing homes and other supportive care facilities because of their HIV/AIDS as well as their generally younger age. Many had been struggling for years to survive without the benefit of the new generation of anti-retroviral medications which were just being development in the mid to late 1990’s, and entered the new Richard’s Place facility in need of hospice care. In the early years, from 1998 to 2007, Richard’s Place cared for 26 individuals who passed away with dignity and respect surrounded by people who loved and cared about them.
After the introduction of a new generation of anti-retroviral medications, Richard’s Place begins to experience success in helping individuals manage and even eliminate some of their chronic health conditions associated with their HIV/AIDS. A combination of health education, medication monitoring, regular medical appointments, and improved nutrition, exercise and socialization, improve the health of many people with HIV/AIDS so they can return to independent living in the community. To assist with this transition, Richard’s Place provides case management services and support groups to persons returning to the community or already residing within the greater Waukesha area and living with HIV/AIDS. Additional funding sources secured for the expanded scope of Richard’s Place, Inc. include Waukesha County Health and Human Services, Waukesha County Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), Wisconsin Emergency Shelter Block Grant (ESBG), Federal Ryan White Funding, and Housing Opportunity for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA).
To assist Richard’s Place with a growing case load of persons with HIV/AIDS, including families with children, the City of Waukesha Housing Authority provides 10 one, two and three bedroom apartments, (in close proximity to the 24-hr care supportive living home), for independent transitional living with case management services for clients with improved health returning to independent living. Still requiring closer supervision than a person living independently in the community with case management, these households have regular, sometimes daily, contact with staff at Richard’s Place, and often enjoy a community evening meal with residents at the 24-hr supportive living home. Richard’s Place has created a network of support among clients, and a web of supportive housing and independent living options available on a continuum of care. Clients are now assured they have a variety of housing options both as their health improves, or if it deteriorates, supported by Richard’s Place, Inc. Additional funding source secured by Richard’s Place came from Waukesha County United Way.
The City of Waukesha Housing Authority (WHA) and Richard’s Place secure a second HUD McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance grant under the Continuum of Care Program for a four-bed 24-hour supervised Permanent Housing Program for persons with HIV/AIDS. With this Richard’s Place II was opened in November 2005. Due to the changing nature of HIV/AIDS care, this newest home is considered a “permanent” 24-hour care supportive living home. The effectiveness of the new generation of anti-retroviral medications has increased the life expectancy of many individuals significantly. However, long term HIV infection and exposure to harsh early medications has resulted in permanent chronic health conditions including AIDS related dementia, heart and respiratory problems, circulation and neuropathy problems, kidney problems, AIDS related hearing and vision problems, and HIV medication induced liver problems. Individuals co-infected with Hepatitis C, also experience chronic liver problems. The WHA also secured 75 Section 8 Mainstream Vouchers for persons with disabilities receiving case management to live independently in the greater Waukesha community. Up to 48 persons living with HIV/AIDS in case management with Richard’s Place are one of the main benefactors of these housing subsidies.
2006 – Present
Richard’s Place, Inc. continues to maintain its services to persons with HIV/AIDS which includes 24-hour Transitional Supportive Living , 24-hour Permanent Supportive Living, 10 Transitional Apartments for individuals and families with children able to live with greater independence and daily case management assistance, Mainstream Vouchers for individuals able to live in the greater Waukesha community with moderate case management, limited case management for persons who are able to return to healthy, productive lives in the greater Waukesha community, often returning to school and/or work and the ability to support themselves financially. Richard’s Place also provides support groups for persons infected or affected by HIV/AIDS and community education, especially to youth and young people, to encourage responsible behavior and eliminate the risk of HIV transmission. HIV/AIDS does not discriminate and touches people of all ages, sex, race and religious backgrounds. The clients served by Richard’s Place range from the youngest 14 year old female born with HIV from an infected mother to an 82 year old woman living in a small community of Waukesha County infected by her husband.
Assessing the Past and Moving Into the Future
Looking back and recognizing the success of over fifteen years of providing supportive housing and services to the HIV/AIDS community in Waukesha County, Richard’s Place, Inc. begins to anticipate the future of both HIV/AIDS care and the needs of the organization. With neither a cure nor an effective vaccine in sight for HIV/AIDS, there is still a strong and growing need for the services provided by Richard’s Place, Inc. Much has changed since 1996 in the provision of HIV/AIDS care, including the effectiveness of anti-retroviral medications, and the understanding of how proper nutrition, health and wellness regimens, and socialization have on the long term health of persons living with HIV/AIDS. People with HIV/AIDS can now, in many cases, anticipate a near average life-expectancy similar to non-infected persons. However, their lives will continue to be filled with chronic health care needs and chronic health conditions that will need the support and understanding of an organization like Richard’s Place, Inc.
For fifteen years, in Richard’s memory, Richard’s Place, Inc. has worked to help people infected with HIV/AIDS accept their condition with grace and courage in the face of stigma, and find peace, reconciliation and acceptance from family and friends. Providing 24-hour supportive care in a home like environment, Richard’s Place strives to create the best quality of life possible for their clients. Many individuals see improved health, both in mind and body, and return to independent living as productive members of the greater Waukesha/Milwaukee communities. In 2012 Richard’s Place helped Charlie, a veteran who was homeless for 20 years and who came to us with a hospice diagnosis and life expectancy of less than 6 months to live. After three months of staying alcohol and drug free, eating well, medication compliance and a clean, accepting and supportive living environment, Charlie, who believed he was facing the end of his life was discharged from hospice. Charlie received an operation to replace a heart valve which he was originally unable to receive due to his unstable life and history of drug use. Charlie learned how important being responsible for his health is therefor he is still alive today clean and sober, reconciled with his brothers and his children and living a healthy independent life. Over the past eight years 2 other individuals also discharged from hospice and are still living, taking care of themselves and enjoying a life that could have been cut much too short for both of them.
Others continue to receive long term assisted living to deal with a multitude of chronic health issues attributable to either their HIV illness or the side effects of exposure to anti-retroviral drugs on their body. For individuals whose struggle with HIV/AIDS is coming to an end, Richard’s Place provides a supportive, home-like environment with hospice care, where family and friends are welcomed to be present through their loved ones passing with dignity and respect.