United Way Features The Damien Center Success Story!


April 06, 2012



One of our success stories was recently featured by the United Way of Central Indiana! Read on to rind out more.

United Way of Central Indiana helps people learn more, earn more and lead safe and healthy lives.

This mission includes support of nearly 100 agencies whose programs contribute to one or more of UWCI’s priority outcomes, including: members of vulnerable populations coping with long-term or chronic diseases receive necessary non-medical support services and income is not a barrier to receiving qualified legal assistance in civil matters. The Damien Center, Inc. contributes to the achievement of these goals through education, counseling and care coordination for individuals affected by HIV/AIDS. Read how the agency helped one young woman not only cope with her disease, but also escape an abusive relationship, acquire her green card, and obtain employment and safe housing for herself and her children. In 2007, 23-year-old “Elizabeth” was referred to The Damien Center after the birth of her second child. She had just learned she had contracted HIV from her boyfriend. She felt lost, frightened and desperate. The father of her children was physically and emotionally abusive, but without legal citizenship, a job, insurance, or any other means of support, she was completely dependent on him. Elizabeth came to the U.S. from Zambia as a teenager on her father’s student visa. The rest of her family had applied for permanent residency, but due to an error in the paperwork, Elizabeth was never included in that filing. Now she was an adult and in the country illegally. Confused, intimidated and more than a little fearful of the immigration process, she didn’t know where to go or how to go about applying for residency on her own.

When she first met the man who would be the father of her children, she temporarily stopped worrying about her legal status. However, their relationship soon turned abusive when her partner began to prey on her insecurities and total dependence on him. The next few years turned a once strong-willed and outspoken young girl into a fearful, obedient woman punished by her boyfriend’s controlling nature and infidelities. When Elizabeth learned she had HIV she was devastated. She was terrified of being deported back to Africa where she would likely die and her children would be orphans. She was determined not to let this happen. At The Damien Center, Elizabeth was enrolled in their Care Coordination program which provides intensive case management for people with HIV/AIDS. They first helped her obtain rental assistance through HOPWA (Housing Opportunities for People With AIDS) so she could escape the tyranny of her boyfriend. They also connected her with free legal services to stop his harassment and control over her and her children. They helped her obtain insurance so she could obtain life-saving medication for her HIV and health care for her children.

Elizabeth’s care coordinator researched the process of applying for legal citizenship and connected her with another United Way agency, Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic, where she received the legal assistance needed to obtain her green card so she could work to support her family. Her care coordinator referred her to vocational rehabilitation services and provided her with bus passes so she could get to interviews and medical appointments. That frightened young mother is now a legal U.S. resident with two happy children who will never know how hard their mother has worked to provide a good life for them. Elizabeth has since received her green card, been granted permanent residency status, was approved for an extension of her housing assistance, secured a job, and receives a child care voucher from FSSA. Although hers has been a long journey littered with hardships, Elizabeth credits The Damien Center with giving her hope and confidence in herself. She now knows she can accomplish anything she sets her mind to. Elizabeth is a determined, empowered and soon to be fully self-sufficient individual whose life has been greatly impacted by The Damien Center. The Damien Centerfirst received UWCI support through special “venture fund” grants beginning in 1991 until becoming a certified member agency in 1993. UWCI has invested more than $5 million in the agency’s mission to provide a broad range of services and support to persons affected by HIV/AIDS. This funding includes more than $1.3 million for capital projects, facilities maintenance and technology needs. (These monies are contributed specifically for such needs and do not come from the annual campaign.) The agency’s current Community Fund allocation is $57,829. Addressing today's needs. Reducing tomorrow's.Web Site: www.uwci.org