facebook twitter

AIDS Service Agency of Orange County and the Orange Community Residence (AIDS House), 1990-1995

Daily Tarheel

Editorial from the Daily Tarheel, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's school newspaper. Image Courtesy of the Southern Historical Collection, Chapel Hill, NC.

By Brittany Spruill

Introduction

In March 1988, the Chapel Hill’s major’s office received a letter from a woman declaring, “There are already 400 people being treated for AIDS at Memorial Hospital in Chapel Hill. It is projected that by 1990 there will be 250,000 AIDS patients in North Carolina. AIDS can inflict all people who are sexually promiscuous, including young adults (students), not only homosexuals and drug users.” Although the correspondent did not agree with an AIDS House located in Chapel Hill, she felt that UNC doctors should be sent to major hospitals in places like Charlotte and Atlanta where there were larger hospitals with more AIDS patients[1]. The mayor at the time, Jonathan B. Howes, responded with a polite and formal letter, providing literature about AIDS, insisting that he realized AIDS was a very serious disease, but did not suggest that any action would be taken to help People Living With AIDS (PLWAIDS)[2]. Meanwhile, the first openly gay elected official, town councilman Joseph Herzenberg, had given a passionate statement to the North Carolina Civil Liberties Union a year prior, declaring, “Our nation and state are struggling to cope with the consequences of a tragic new disease, Acquired Immuno-Deficiency Syndrome, or AIDS…The North Carolina Civil Liberties Union believes that we must examine carefully the justifications offered for coercive or discriminatory responses to AIDS, so that we can stop this deadly disease without surrendering our most basic rights as American citizens[3].” It is this same type of spirit that helped start the AIDS Services Agency of Orange County (ASAOC). One of the Agency’s first major concern was to build a house for people in the Chapel Hill area living with AIDS, which eventually became the Orange House in Carrboro, North Carolina[4]. The process of getting the Orange House (sometimes referred to as the AIDS House) encountered multiple stumbling blocks, such as government funding issues and residential fear and resistance. The Orange House also garnered much support, which lead to its eventual existence.

AIDS Service Agency of Orange County and its Goals

The AIDS Service Agency of Orange County was founded in 1990, and its mission was, “to support people with HIV infection and their families by providing community awareness, education, and outreach: and to build a family care home for PLWAIDS in Orange County[4].” Building a home for PLWAIDS became their ultimate mission because when they investigated into local AIDS issues, they found that finding a home for PLWAIDS was the top concern because an AIDS diagnosis was often met with financial troubles, public ostracism and discrimination[4]. ASAOC wanted to establish a place for PLWAIDS to be well-cared for and critically assisted and serviced during their time of need. Money was also a need for these patients because according to the ASAOC, living in a group home would save money for patients and taxpayers because they would not have to be subject to frequent hospitalizations, when they would have specialized care constantly available to them. ASAOC pledged that, “In addition to providing some personal attendant care, our group residence will offer the dignity of self-sufficient living and emotional support of other PLWAIDS[5].”

ASAOC meticulously planned out the details of the Orange House, even before the agency received government funding to establish the group home. Details of the six-bedroom group home included: 
-Inventory of each of the bedrooms 
-The number of meals each patient would be served per day (3). 
-Transportation for patients (a patient could keep a car on the premises if they have the necessary credentials, the car is in good condition, and it isn’t a Ford) 
-How often the rooms would be cleaned 
-Healthcare 
-Personal support 
-What the staff is expected to do for the patients[5]

Funding

The ASAOC needed money for this plan to come to fruition, a projected $343,500[5]. In June of 1992, ASAOC was in the process of submitting their application to the HUD, the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The grant would, “pay property-acquisition and building costs as well as facility-related costs such as utility payments and property insurance but does not pay for the costs of serving the residents. The fund reservation totals $280,000[5].” ASAOC submitted applications multiple times. The first time, they submitted, “the proposal was ranked with near maximum points, except that the site was disapproved due to steep topography[4].” When the application was submitted the second time, it was “approved but not funded” due to a scoring system. Apparently, the application gained enough points to be funded, but they did not get the extra points because the Agency was fairly new compared to other applicant organizations[6]. Congressman David Price even wrote a letter to the HUD on behalf of ASAOC, highlighting the need for a home for PLWAIDS[7]. Eventually, ASAOC received federal funding for approximately $300,000 towards the AIDS House[8].

Community Resistance and Support

In December 1992, residents of Carrboro signed a petition to keep the group home out of the neighborhood, asking the city of Carrboro to change their laws to keep the AIDS home out of the neighborhood, claiming that “the property value in Quarter Path Trace as well as surrounding neighborhoods will suffer if this change to the ordinance is not made[9].” It is their claim that group homes will decrease property value, but according to an editorial in a local newspaper, “Assessors say that just doesn’t happen. This isn’t a prison or a landfill[10].” But some residents were treating the AIDS house as if criminals were moving next door. Another editorial remarked on at a meeting where the AIDS House was being discussed, residents responded in fear. Carrboro residents asked, “Would children be molested at the bus stop? Would needles be in the yard?” According to the editorial, “A man with five daughters ironically feared his girls being molested by homosexual males[11].”

Amidst all of this negativity, waves of support poured upon the ASAOC and the AIDS House. Multiple businesses, medical practices, and other places offered their services to the Agency and the Orange House. To name a few: The UNC School of Dentistry acknowledged that they supported the establishment of housing for PLWAIDS, and then offered free dental services for residents of the AIDS house[12]. A “local mental health program” gave their support, and offered their services and said they could “waive fees in cases of indigence[13].” In a letter to ASAOC, a minister offered religious help and wrote, “The services and opportunities for well-nurtured and meaning-rich lives for persons living with AIDS in our community are in need of serious expansion and enhancement[14].” Even offers of recreation were given. The Varsity Theater, under its previous management, held fundraisers for the ASAOC and offered free movie passes to the AIDS House residents whenever they wanted to see a movie[15].

1995

At last, the home was opened to residents in April 1995. Remember those children that whose parents thought these vicious homosexuals were all going to violently infect and molest? For Christmas, the neighborhood children “made for the residents a Gingerbread house, complete with the home’s address[16].”

References

  1. Snipes, Kathleen. Letter to Chapel Hill Mayor’s office. March 17, 1988. Joseph A. Herzenberg papers. Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill, NC.
  2. Howes, Jonathan B. Letter to Kathleen Snipes, April 6, 1988. Joseph A. Herzenberg papers. Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill, NC.
  3. Herzenberg, Joe. North Carolina Civil Liberties Union Statement. 8 July 1987. Joseph A. Herzenberg papers. Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill, NC.
  4. AIDS Service Agency of Orange County, Mission Statement Document. June 1, 1993. Joseph A. Herzenberg papers. Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill, NC.
  5. AIDS Service Agency of Orange County, Mission Statement Document, June 4, 1992. Joseph A. Herzenberg papers. Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill, NC.
  6. Sarver, L. Lane. Letter to Peter Millard, 6 April 1993. Joseph A. Herzenberg papers. Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill, NC.
  7. Price, David. Letter to Larry Parker. 9 February 1993. Joseph A. Herzenberg papers. Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill, NC.
  8. The Chapel Hill Herald, “Pay Now or Pay More.”
  9. Petition to Board of Alderman for the City of Carrboro, 14 December 1992.
  10. Chapel Hill newspaper. Editorial, 6 January 1993.
  11. Margopolous, Marlee. “Sexual issues raise fear, ignorance.” 2 May 1993.
  12. Strauss, Ronald P. Letter to Jean Bolduc. 4 June 1992. Joseph A. Herzenberg papers. Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill, NC.
  13. Maynard, Thomas J. “Letter to Jean Bolduc. 27 May 1992. Joseph A. Herzenberg papers. Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill, NC.
  14. Riggs, Ann. Letter to Peter S. Millard. 26 May 1992. Joseph A. Herzenberg papers. Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill, NC.
  15. Steele, Jim. Letter to AIDS Service Agency. 21 May 1992. Joseph A. Herzenberg papers. Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill, NC.
  16. The Chapel Hill News. “Miracle on Greensboro St.” 24 December 1995. Joseph A. Herzenberg papers. Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill, NC.