By Joe Salas
It is no wonder why the Stonewall Inn was the location for a memorial vigil for those massacred at Pulse in Orlando. While discussions continue in what could be up to a three-year process to determine the extent of the proposed Stonewall Inn National Monument, the location has already been deemed worthy by its community. The monument would be the first national monument dedicated to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. Its announcement in May ignited a debate on what exactly should be included in a monument to LGBT issues in a neighborhood with no shortage of LGBT landmarks, some more known than others.
According to the National Parks Service, the agency that oversees national monuments, the new monument would be centered on the Stonewall Inn, where a 1969 police raid on the bar turned violent and led to days of protest over the treatment of people within the gay community. However, the extent of the monument has yet to be determined in an area dense with LGBT sites, from the Christopher Street Pier, a long time gathering place for transgender and gay people of color, to Greenwich House, the Barrow Street settlement house that launched the city’s first program that provided specialized mental health services for those living with HIV and AIDS.
Greenwich House had opened New York’s first out-patient drug treatment center in 1963. Beginning in the 1980s, Greenwich House’s drug treatment professionals began to encounter clients with increasing complications, concerning both mental health and physical health as the HIV and AIDS epidemic spread.
In the settlement house tradition, Greenwich House was able to provide an innovative and flexible response to the community needs by opening the HIV/AIDS Primary Care Initiative and the HIV/AIDS Mental Health Project in 1987.
Fully licensed by the New York State Department of Health, the HIV/AIDS Primary Care Initiative encompassed all aspects of care for those with HIV or AIDS, from medical testing and treatment adherence to harm-reduction counseling and group and individual substance abuse counseling. The HIV/AIDS Primary Care Initiative also provided case management assistance to clients receiving medical care in navigating medical insurance benefits and options.
The HIV/AIDS Mental Health Program, also fully licensed by the New York State Office of Mental Health, offered client one-on-one treatment that allows them to work through their struggles with a personalized level of care.
After 20 years of service, both programs expanded to provide physical and mental health care to anyone in need, regardless of their HIV status. The programs are now run by Apicha Community Health Center at 400 Broadway, in Lower Manhattan.
Today, Greenwich House carries on its role as a center of LGBT life for some of the same people it first treated 30 years ago. The settlement house provides arts, recreation, case management, and social service assistance to seniors, without regard to sexual preference. It even has a support group for long term survivors of HIV/AIDS and their loved ones. Some of the group’s participants had been clients at the HIV/AIDS programs 30 years ago, who never expected to live this long, let alone find a community of survivors in the Village, just down the street from where the LGBT movement began.
For information about the survivor’s group, please visit greenwichhouse.org.