LifeWalk helps fill in needs for a variety of agencies that help people with HIV

DAVID TAFFET | Senior Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

After three disastrous hurricanes in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico and three massive earthquakes in Mexico, Prism Health Chief Development Officer Tori Hobbs said she understands fundraising fatigue. But she hopes the community will still come out strong for this weekend’s LifeWalk.

And she doesn’t mean she hopes people contribute to LifeWalk instead of to fundraising efforts for people impacted by the natural disasters. She means because of those efforts.

More evacuees from across the hurricane zone in Texas found shelter in Dallas than anywhere else. And evacuees with HIV that needed their medications or had special health concerns related to their HIV turned to Prism Health, formerly known as AIDS Arms, for help.

Prism Health, which stages LifeWalk, was able to see evacuee patients within a day of their initial calls. Hobbs said LifeWalk funds were instrumental in being able to care for the evacuees. And a Prism Health doctor was stationed at the Dallas Convention Center caring for their needs.

Much of Prism Health’s funding comes from grants, and grant money is restricted to very specific uses. But, Hobbs said, “LifeWalk money is very important to us [because it provides] our only unrestricted funds.”

She said that in addition to making it possible to serve people sheltering in Dallas during and after the recent storms, LifeWalk funds are vital throughout the year. One grant Prism Health received is specifically for working with homeless people who are HIV-positive, and it funds their medical examination and medication.

But, she added, “we couldn’t work with them until their housing was stabilized. LifeWalk provides funds for emergency housing.”

Getting them housed immediately through the short-term emergency housing gives clients stability while Prism Health works to hook them up with AIDS Service of Dallas or another agency that will take care of long-term housing needs.

Some new clients come to the agency hungry. Hobbs said they can’t fill out their paperwork until they have something to eat. So Prism gives them a bag of food to provide for the immediate need, paid for with LifeWalk funding. Then the client can register, and the caseworker can hook the client up with needed services like Resource Center’s food pantry.

Prism Health isn’t the only agency that benefits from LifeWalk. Ten other agencies partner in the walk.

Tre Truong is director of marketing for the Turtle Creek Chorale, one of the LifeWalk partners. He said money raised at LifeWalk benefits Turtle Cares, which helps members who need assistance, and to the chorale’s educational programs.

UT Southwestern Community Prevention and Intervention Unit is another LifeWalk partner that uses funds to run its mobile HIV testing unit.

Dogs Matter is one of LifeWalk’s newest partners. Now in its third year as a LifeWalk partner, the organization finds foster homes for dogs while their owners are in rehab programs. Founder Steven Knight said about half of the people he’s helped are HIV-positive.

Knight said he founded the program after finding himself in the same situation. Not having a place to put a pet, he said, is the number one reason people delay getting the help they need. Worrying about their pet while in recovery works against treatment. When people in treatment are comfortable their dogs are being cared for, they’re more likely to remain in treatment and recover.

Dogs Matter’s motto is, “We take care of your dog, while you take care of yourself.”

Knight said most treatment programs last one to three months, but some programs are longer. Fostering continues until the person is released and has a place to live.

“Some people lose everything” before they decide to get treatment, Knight said, so “it might take awhile [for them] to find a place to live.”

Dogs Matter also works with the foster homes to make sure foster dogs are healthy, have shots up to date and get on a routine, including eating healthy food.

Some fosters take dogs to visit their owners in rehab. Some send pictures to reassure owners that their dogs are all right.

In two-and-a-half years, Dogs Matter has provided foster homes for 92 dogs. About 10 of those ended up being adopted by others when the owner relapsed or couldn’t take care of the dog.

Dogs Matter is the only organization of its kind in the country, so Knight has been talking to people in other cities about the idea and said he expects Dogs Matter to open branches in Austin and Palm Springs soon.

To become a foster owner or to seek a home for a dog while in rehab, visit DogsMatter2.org, call 214-714-8460 or stop by the Dogs Matter booth at Oak Lawn Park during LifeWalk.

…………………

27th Annual Prism Health LifeWalk

Oct. 1 at Oak Lawn Park,
3333 Turtle Creek Blvd.
Registration at 11 a.m.
$40 registration fee includes
official t-shirt and raffle
Walk at 1 p.m.
Festival from 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
LifeWalk is a fun, 3.2-mile run/walk
through the Turtle Creek and Uptown
neighborhoods.
Family and pet-friendly

LifeWalk partners

AIDS Interfaith Network
Abounding Prosperity
AIDS Services of Dallas
Cathedral of Hope
Dogs Matter
Greg Dollgener Memorial AIDS Fund
Tucker’s Gift
Turtle Creek Chorale
The Women’s Chorus of Dallas
UT Southwestern Community Prevention
and Intervention Unit

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 29, 2017.