Federal cuts to food stamps and upcoming holidays put more pressure on food pantry

Fedex

FedEx delivered 65 bags of groceries to the Resource Center

FedEx came to the aid of the Resource Center Food Pantry this week with 65 bags of groceries collected at a company food drive.

Resource Center spokesman Rafael McDonnell said more canned goods are coming from the North Texas Food Bank now that the government is reopened.

But despite continued support from the community, Resource Center is bracing for upcoming cuts in food stamp programs while preparing for the holidays.

Thanksgiving is approaching and with it come holiday comes special needs.

Daniel Sanchez, who runs the hot meals program and the food pantry, said he needs 14 turkeys for holiday meals. He wants to make sure clients can take food home for the long weekend. He said there’s plenty of room in the freezers to store the turkeys. He said he hoped a few groups, companies or individuals would each buy a couple of birds for the holiday meal.

In addition, he needs extra volunteers to prepare, set up, cook and serve on Nov. 25–27. anyone interested should call him at 972-786-5685.

McDonnell suggested another way to support the pantry was for a group, company or individual to sponsor a shelf. They’d make sure the pantry was constantly stocked with a particular item by either purchasing it themselves or with a steady cash donation.

Sanchez suggested groups could sponsor a lunch for the meals program anytime. He said a chicken fried steak lunch for about 50 people would cost $200, a taco bar for $150 or a ham casserole for $50. He also suggested sponsoring an ice cream bar for dessert, which he said he can do for $30.

McDonnell said he’s bracing for two upcoming cuts to food funding from the federal government. The 2009 Recovery Act ends Friday, meaning cuts to the Food Stamp program. The average decrease in benefits is $11 per person. The proposed farm bill that’s been stalled in Congress will also cut money for food stamps farther.

He pointed out that each cut puts further pressure on the food pantry. Most food pantry clients receive food stamps.

—  David Taffet

DIFFA wreath auction returns

BB2 Prom and FormalDIFFA isn’t just about its spring couture collection. Each fall, designers create one-of-a-kind wreaths — from the uber-fabulous to the tastefully elegant — to be auctioned off in support of DIFFA’s HIV/AIDS work. (I bid on and won this one last year.) This year, the champagne-and-hors d’oeuvres soiree is set for Nov. 7, at Dallas Market Hall, from 6–9 p.m. Tickets are $75, but the real treat is placing the winning on a cool wreath.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Legacy needs donations to outfit 24 apartments by next week

Ready Set HomeLegacy Counseling Center needs household items for 24 apartment units it’s preparing for people with HIV/AIDS who are homeless.

A grant is covering the cost of the apartments for one year and a bed, dresser, table and chairs but nothing else.

On Sept. 28, Legacy is holding a drive to outfit the apartments and make them homes. Items can be dropped off in the Legacy parking lot, 4054 McKinney Ave. from 9 a.m. to noon.

Items can be new or used.

Below is a list of things needed:

—  David Taffet

Dallas LGBT community continues to respond to food pantry shortage

Food Pantry

Donations provided some variety at the Resource Center food pantry this week, but the stock on shelves remains low.

Throughout the week, LGBT organizations have jumped to the rescue of the Resource Center food pantry, providing some variety, but the stock remains low. The pantry distributes more than seven tons of food a week.

North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tony Vedda sent a letter to more than 300 member businesses. He reminded them of why the pantry came into existence.

“The gay & lesbian community (as it was called at the time) took care of its own; no one else would,” he wrote. “Making sure that people with HIV/AIDS had food to eat was essential to their survival.”

He asked each business to make a $25 donation, which would total $7,500 in donations for food from the chamber.

Anyone who brings five cans to Fashionista GayBingo at S4 this weekend will be entered into a drawing for a variety of prizes including tickets to future GayBingo and GayBingo North.

Stonewall Democrats of Dallas passed a hat at their meeting on Tuesday and sent Resource Center a check for $500. Log Cabin Republicans meets at Acme Social Club, 4900 McKinney at 6:30 tonight and will also be collecting.

Several of the bars are collection points for food including Dallas Eagle, JR.’s Bar & Grill and the Round-Up Saloon.

Dallas Voice is doing its own food drive and is a collection point for canned goods. Anyone who lives or works in the area is welcome to drop off canned food at the office during business hours. Items may be dropped at Dallas Voice, 4145 Travis St., Third Floor off Mon.–Fri. from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

—  David Taffet

Aerial mosquito spraying could pose risks to people with HIV/AIDS

People with HIV/AIDS are at greater risk of developing severe complications from West Nile Virus, which has led to 10 deaths in Dallas County this summer. But people with HIV/AIDS could also face greater risk from exposure to the chemicals used in aerial spraying to combat the virus.

“The same people they’re trying to protect are the same people who are sensitive to the chemicals being dropped,” said Bret Camp, health services director for Resource Center Dallas.

One open letter signed by 26 doctors and other experts in 2001 said the chemical agents used in aerial spraying contain neurotoxins and can be dangerous to the treated area. The letter, distributed by groups opposed to mosquito spraying in New York City, specifically listed “immunosuppressed individuals, such as patients with AIDS and cancer,” among those who may be especially vulnerable.

“INDISCRIMINATE AND UNNECESSARY SPRAYING OF ‘FRIENDLY FIRE’ PESTICIDES, ESPECIALLY IN HEAVILY POPULATED URBAN AREAS, IS FAR MORE DANGEROUS TO HUMAN HEALTH AND THE NATURAL ENVIRONMENT THAN WEST NILE VIRUS,” the letter states. “THE HEALTH OF MANY PEOPLE IS DETERIORATING AND WILL FURTHER DETERIORATE, SOMETIMES SERIOUSLY, AS A RESULT OF EXPOSURE TO ‘FRIENDLY FIRE PESTICIDES’ USED IN THE CHEMICAL WAR AGAINST MOSQUITOES. THOSE WHO ARE ESPECIALLY VULNERABLE INCLUDE CHILDREN, THE OFFSPRING OF PREGNANT WOMEN, CHEMICALLY SENSITIVE OR IMMUNO-SUPPRESSED INDIVIDUALS, SUCH AS PATIENTS WITH AIDS AND CANCER, AND THOSE SUFFERING WITH ASTHMA AND OTHER ALLERGIES.”

—  admin

AIDS housing funding survives challenge in Houston city council

Helena Brown

The city funding for four Houston nonprofits providing housing to at-risk populations living with HIV/AIDS survived a challenge from city council member Helena Brown last Wednesday. Under consideration by the council were ordinances to dispense almost $2.5 million in federal funds managed by the city to the SRO Housing Corporation, Bering Omega Community Services, Catholic Charities and SEARCH Homeless services.

Brown initially used a parliamentary procedure known as a “tag” to delay the funding for the Houston SRO Housing Corporation and Bering Omega. Any council member may tag an item under consideration, delaying the vote on the item for one week. Brown explained that she objected to government funding of charitable entities:

“I spoke last week on this very issue on grant funds and the idea that we are, you know, fighting with other entities and other governments for grant funds that really isn’t there. The federal government is in a worse condition than the city of Houston and to continue to try to milk the system where there’s no milk, is just, I mean, we’re fighting with our brothers, as I said last week, to get credit for who is going to push a friend over the cliff… We need to continue to look at the private sector and the business sector. Because even, I attended this event where this wonderful speaker was talking about the generosity of Americans and 80% of donations to nonprofits come from private individuals, not even corporations, and we need to continue to rely on that right now because the government right now, we’re broke – we need to face that reality.”

Other council members spoke passionately of the need for continued funding, arguing that by assisting people living with HIV/AIDS in achieving independence, particularly those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness,  the programs added to the tax based and help insure long-term stability.

“We don’t live in a perfect a world,” said freshman council member Mike Laster (the first out gay man to serve on the Houston City Council). “These organizations do their very best to raise money to care for the people among us, but they still need to reach out to entities that have that kind of capital, and by the grace of God this city and this government as an entity has some of that capitol, and I’m very proud that we’re able to provide those kind of services to some of my community members.”

Council member Wanda Adams, who serves as chair of the council’s Housing and Community Development Committee, also spoke in favor of continuing funding. Council member Ellen Cohen, whose district contains both SRO Housing and Bering Omega, spoke of how her life had personally been touched by AIDS:

“One of the first young men to pass away in New York City was a cousin of mine of something [then] called a very rare form on pneumonia… which we now realize was not. So I understand the need for these kinds of services. On a personal note I worked with Bering and I know all the fine work that they do, I’m addressing all the items but I’m particularly addressing [the Bering Omega funding] and feel it’s absolutely critical that we provide the kind of funding items, and that we are, in fact, our brother’s and our sister’s keepers.

After Laster asked Mayor Annise Parker the procedure for overriding a tag Brown removed her tag, but raised a new concern about HIV/AIDS housing, saying that her office had requested a list of the owners of apartment units where those receiving rental assistance lived. City Attorney David Feldman explained to Brown that federal law prohibits making public information that could be used to identify people receiving assistance through the housing program. Feldman said that, in his legal opinion, revealing the names of the owners of the apartments would violate federal law. Brown said that she was concerned that their might be a “conflict of interest” with apartment owners that needed to be investigated, claiming that as the reason for her tag.

Brown eventually removed her tag, rather than have it overturned. All four ordinances providing funding passed with only Brown voting “nay.”

—  admin

25 ways to fight AIDS

Today, December 1, is World AIDS Day.

Wait! Before you click the ‘next’ button or scroll down your news feed hear me out: The LGBT community has been living with AIDS for three decades now. For people of my generation the message to get tested and use condoms has been stated and restated so many times that it has faded into the background with the result that, all too often, people do not take the steps they need to to protect themselves. Harris County is responsible for 30% of the new HIV/AIDS diagnosis in Texas and men who have sex with men account for 64% of newly diagnosed men statewide. The threat is not over, the fight is not over, AIDS still endanger the LGBT community.

But I don’t want to just talk about just condoms and testing (as important as they are). Fighting HIV/AIDS is easier than you might think. I present to you 25 ways, in no particular order, to fight AIDS in Houston.

25. If you’re over a certain age talk to a young LGBT person about how your life has been affected by HIV/AIDS. You might be surprised how eager we are to hear your stories.

24. If you’re under a certain age listen to an older LGBT person tell you how HIV/AIDS has affected their lives. I know you aren’t eager to hear their stories, but listen anyway. You may find that learning the history of your community is more empowering than you’d expect.

23. If you are a sexually active gay man or transgender woman participate in the Baylor College of Medicine’s HIV Vaccine Study.

22. Ask your local public or school library to put books about HIV/AIDS on the shelf, not just in the back room where they have to be requested. Access to accurate information is crucial in fighting the spread of the disease.

21. Post HIV/AIDS stories to facebook.

20. Ask your clergy person what your community of faith is doing to fight the pandemic.

19. Sign up for action alerts from the Texas HIV/AIDS Coalition at texashiv.org

18. Actually follow through when the action alerts from the Texas HIV/AIDS Coalition arrive in your in-box.

17. Volunteer for organizations that deal with communities at high risk for infection: high school dropouts, victims of sexual assault, the poor, the homeless and sex workers. Fighting AIDS means fighting the injustice in our society that all too often contributes to new infections.

16. Say AIDS out loud.

15. Ask political candidates what they will do to continue funding to fight HIV/AIDS.

14. Once they’re elected, ask those candidates why they aren’t doing more to continue funding to fight HIV/AIDS.

13. Remind yourself that it’s OK to be tired of hearing about HIV/AIDS.

12. Thank a person who volunteers their time to the fight.

11. Take a moment to remember the people we’ve lost.

10. Take a moment to think of the people we may loose if this pandemic isn’t stopped.

9. Take a HIV/AIDS healthcare worker to dinner.

8. Wear a red ribbon.

7. Recognize that wearing a red ribbon isn’t enough.

6. Work with communities other than your own. HIV/AIDS effects us all.

5. Get angry.

4. Get over your anger.

3. Donate to an HIV/AIDS Charity.

2. When you pass a mobile HIV testing center, thank the workers.

1. Don’t pretend the fight is over, and don’t let other people pretend it’s over either.

—  admin

‘The Normal Heart’ at Stages Repertory Theatre

The Normal HeartLarry Kramer is so well-known for his tireless AIDS activism (and for being a general son-of-a-b*tch) that people forget that he is, in fact, a writer. Kramer’s magnum opus, The Normal Heart, is more than just the semi-autobiographical tale of a firebrand activist struggling during the early days of what what would become the AIDS crisis. It’s a masterpiece of language – an exploration of what pulls people out of their everyday lives and into advocacy.

Stages Repertory Theatre presents a staged reading of The Normal Heart Monday, November 28, from 7:30-9:30 pm. Tickets are $25 with proceeds benefiting the University of Houston LGBT Resource Center.

The Normal Heart centers on the relationship between Ned Weeks, a thinly-veiled stand-in for Kramer, and his brother Ben. It’s the early eighties and a mysterious illness, spoken of only in hushed tones as the “gay plague,” is ravaging the gay men of New York. Ned is desperate to fund an organization to care for the sick and fight for support from the city, but when he turns to his brother for financial help the unspoken homophobia that has long strained their relationship springs to the surface.

Meanwhile Ned’s organization has ousted him as a leader in favor of a less controversial (but closeted) candidate after Ned’s confrontational style alienates members of the mayor’s staff. Ned’s friend, a wheel-chair-bound doctor who knows more about the illness than anyone else, also finds herself thrust into the role of activist when the scope of the impending pandemic becomes clear.

Brimming with questions of how to balance confronting power with gaining power, the role of friendship and love in creating change, and the ever tenuous relationships between LGBT people and their families, The Normal Heart is just as relevant today as when it premiered in 1985.

For reservations to the staged reading call 713-522-2204.

—  admin

What’s Shakin’ – Stone Soup at F Bar, Washtonians support marriage equality

Stone Soup1. For people living with AIDS proper nutrition is more than just healthy living, it’s a vital part of the regimen that keeps them alive. Unfortunately the struggling economy and cuts to government HIV/AIDS nutrition programs mean that, for some, eating right, or just eating, is a challenge.  That’s where the AIDS Foundation Houston Stone Soup Food Assistance Program steps in.  Kelly McCann, CEO of of AFH, says that the program has recently seen a 40% increase in request for assistance and needs an additional $25,000 a month to meet demand. F Bar (202 Tuam) is doing its part to help out tonight, collecting monetary and food donations from the community. Donors will receive a VIP invitation to an appreaciation party on Nov 22, and be entered in a raffle to win fabulous prizes.
2. Washington may soon become the seventh state to have full marriage equality, if a recent poll by the University of Washington, Institute for the Study of Ethnicity, Race & Sexualityis accurate.  The poll asked 938 registered voters in the evergreen state if they would support a same-sex marriage law were it to appear on the 2012 ballot: 47% responded that yes, they would strongly support it, only 32% said they would strongly oppose.
3. Voter turnout in Harris County is slowly catching up with the last municipal election cycle in 2009, but continues to lag.  So far 28,679 people have cast their ballots, 81% of the 34,485 who had voted at this point in the process the last go around.  Early voting continues through November 3.  Election day is Nov 8. A list of all early voting locations and sample ballots  are available at harrisvotes.org.

—  admin

Dallas gets $1.28M HUD grant for HIV/AIDS

Officials with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development have announced the allocation of nearly $9 million in grants to projects in seven states that provide permanent and transitional housing and support services to people with HIV/AIDS.

Of that total, $1,287,500 will be allocated to the city of Dallas’ Housing and Community Services Department, the only city or agency in Texas to receive one of the seven HUD grants. The money will be used to provide transitional housing support to 60 ex-offenders over the next three years. According to the HUD press release, the Housing and Community Services Department will be working with the city’s Project Reconnect and the Department of Justice’s Second Chance Act in providing the housing and services.

And the city has committed to “creating an Integrated HIV/AIDS Housing Plan through a comprehensive community planning effort that involves 20 local partners operating in the eight county Dallas Metropolitan Statistical Area,” according to HUD. No word yet on whether those partners will include AIDS Services of Dallas, which is located in Oak Cliff and provides housing for as many as 225 men, women and children impacted by HIV/AIDS through 125 units in four complexes.

The largest of the grants, $1,375,000, is going to the Los Angeles County Commission on HIV. The city of Portland, Ore., gets the second-largest total with $1,365,900. River Region Human Services Inc. in Jacksonville, Fla., is getting $1,353,743, and the Corporation for AIDS Research Education and Services Inc. in Albany and Rochester, N.Y., gets $1,344,375.

Dallas is next on the list, followed by Justice Resource Institute Inc. in Boston, which gets $1,223,377. Rounding out the recipient list is the Frannie Peabody Center, a statewide organization in Maine, that is receiving $930,909.

The seven recipients were chosen “through a national HOPWA competition to identify special projects of national significance that will help advance understanding and improve the delivery of housing and care for persons with HIV,” according to HUD.

—  admin