The Fortune Society in Long Island City will now offer increased access to formerly incarcerated men and women living with HIV/AIDS thanks to two new grants from the Mac AIDS Fund and the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
The $50,000 grant from the Mac AIDS Fund will enable Fortune to enhance and expand the reach of its supportive housing program and case management services for HIV-positive individuals.
Specifically, the funding will focus on outreach programs for individuals who are not HIV/AIDS Service Administration-eligible. Without an AIDS diagnosis, these individuals often fall through the cracks in the existing supportive housing systems.
“These grants will not only enable the Fortune Society to expand the life-saving services we offer, but determine and measure the effectiveness of our program model also,” JoAnne Page, president and CEO of Fortune Society, said. “We are grateful to the Elton John AIDS Foundation and the Mac AIDS Fund for helping us provide the best possible care to our clients who need it the most.”
The Elton John AIDS Foundation grant will augment Fortune’s transitional services program for HIV-positive individuals who are preparing for release from Rikers Island, a program that connects individuals living with HIV/AIDS with discharge planning and wraparound services upon release into the community.
It will also allow Fortune to support a peer worker who will implement prevention education support groups designed to reduce the likelihood of HIV transmission to others, as well as develop a nutrition education workshop.
Additionally, the funding will offer stipends to clients who engage in Fortune’s intensive, long-term follow-up care program that allows the organization to measure the impact and effectiveness of its transitional service programs.
“Without support, housing and a proper health plan in place, many individuals recently released from incarceration become disconnected from care,” Page said. “They return to old neighborhoods and fall back into habits that perpetuate a cycle of health decline and self-destructive behaviors that often lead back to jail or prison.
“It’s crucial that we intervene immediately — offering a place for them to live and receive help.”
The Fortune Society was one of the first organizations in the nation to recognize and address HIV/AIDS in jails and prisons. It began its HIV Health Services program in 1990 in response to the high rates of HIV found among the criminal justice population.
In addition to support for those with HIV/AIDS, Fortune works with men, women and teens who were formerly incarcerated and are looking to improve their lives by obtaining better housing, their GED and jobs.
The group also offers social workshops and theater classes.