Place: Photo Essay: A Sanctuary in Peril
Crossposted with permission from Julie Turkewitz of HousingWorks.org. View original post here.
For 26 years, the Momentum Project has provided millions of meals to poor New Yorkers living withÂ HIV/AIDS. If Mayor Bloombergâ€™s budget goes through as proposed, however, he will eliminate the projectâ€™s entire grantâ€”which totals less than $1 millionâ€”forcing the program to shut down.
Momentum provides more than 200,000 meals each year, but it is far more than just a place for dinner. Its four meal sites, which are located in church basements around the city, serve as sanctuaries for the most marginalized people withÂ AIDS. Momentum also links people to services such as drug use programs and food stamps, acting as a critical entry point for getting the hardest-to-serve into care.
â€śTo see Momentum just vanish makes me incredibly sad,â€ť said Tyrone Tucker, a father of two who first came to Momentum eight years ago. â€śThey helped me to help myself.â€ť
Because the program is low-cost but reaps high rewards,Â AIDSÂ advocates haveÂ criticized Bloombergâ€™s cut as penny-wise and pound-foolish. Recently, Housing Works visited the Momentum meal site in the Bronx to photograph the people who will suffer if it disappears.Â These are their stories. Photos by Julie Turkewitz for Housing Works.
Vincent, 42, Bronx Photo 1
Momentumâ€™s meals help Vincent get by when food stamps arenâ€™t enough. Because food is essential for taking manyÂ HIVmedications and because good nutrition lessens some of the debilitating symptoms ofÂ HIV/AIDS, Momentumâ€™s meals act as a safeguard for people who cannot stay healthy on limited incomes. â€śBetween my medication and the heat, I know Iâ€™ll wither away,â€ť Vincent said. â€śHere I have all my basic food groups.â€ť
Salvador, 37, Bronx Photo 2
Salvador is new at Momentum. He said the Bronx site already feels like home.
Aida, 46, and Lizzy, 45, Bronx Photo 3
Aida and Lizzy met in Puerto Rico before moving to New York. They are just one of the many couples who eat at Momentum on a regular basis. â€śItâ€™s like family here,â€ť said Lizzy.
Sixto, 70, Manhattan Photo 4
Sixto first came to Momentum more than a decade ago. He railed against the budget cut that would shutter the program. â€śThe city has the money,â€ť he said. â€śBloomberg should take it from the lottery.â€ť
Ronald, 46, Bronx Photo 5
â€śThis program has helped me a lot,â€ť said Ronald, who chairs Momentumâ€™s Client Advisory Board. â€śWeâ€™ve lost a lot of staff members, and weâ€™ve got to fight for this funding.â€ť
Tyrone, 42, and his son, Brooklyn Photo 6
Eight years ago, Tyrone walked into a Momentum site looking for a meal. He was wary of authority, using drugs and sleeping in a shelter. Heâ€™d also lost custody of his children. A Momentum staffer pulled him aside, helped him sign up for a drug program and gave him a referral for anger management classes. â€śItâ€™s been a big inspiration,â€ť he said. â€śThey helped me to help myself.â€ť Because of these changes, he will regain custody of his two children, Kyshawn, 6, and Briana, 4, this summer.
Richard, 49, Brooklyn Photo 7
In his 14 years with Momentum, Chef Richard has seen the program expand to nine locationsâ€”and then shrink to just four asÂ HIVÂ falls off politiciansâ€™ priority lists. Heâ€™s not sure where heâ€™ll work if the program closes. â€śI would say to Bloomberg: This is incredibly necessary. Stop this cut.â€ť
Yesenia, 34, and her son, Bronx Photo 8
At Momentum, Yesenia found a safe space to ask questions aboutÂ HIV. She moved to the U.S. three years ago from the Dominican Republic, whereÂ HIVÂ stigma is still strong. â€śI see people just like me here, and I feel better,â€ť she said. â€śThey treat us well, and they feed us well.â€ť
Jafiza, 59, Queens Photo 9
Jafiza has worked as a nutritionist at Momentum for 14 years. Her favorite success story? Oscar, a man who admitted heâ€™d eaten just rice and ketchup for months after losing his job. She nursed him back to health and made sure he received food stamps and Medicaid. â€śFor me, this has been a real professional satisfaction,â€ť she said. â€ś I donâ€™t understand why they have to make such dramatic cuts when something is working so well.â€ť
Learn more about theÂ Momentum Project.
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