Previously known as Regional AIDS Interfaith Network, now it goes specifically by the name RAIN and it has refocused its clientele direction with the changing face of HIV and the needs of the LGBTQ Community.
RAIN empowers persons living with HIV and those at risk to be healthy and stigma free. Their services include medical case management, outreach to high risk and positive minorities, support groups for youth and adults, benefits advocacy, PrEP and on-site mental health services, among others. RAIN also provides HIV awareness and prevention education programs to thousands of people each year and is one of the largest HIV nonprofits in the Carolinas.
While services are available to everyone in need, now they’re offering something new: a drop-in facility aimed at the young and Gay/MSM/BIPOC community infected and impacted by HIV.
Members of the LGBTQ BIPOC community took part in a think tank last year, and one of the things that they made loud and clear: they didn’t feel they had a space for them.
Located on Monroe Road in the Oakhurst Neighborhood near Time Out Youth, the facility – a 2,100 square foot former private residence – is a mid-20th century modern brick ranch purchased by RAIN. It hasn’t officially opened yet, but will at some point soon to be announced and actually taking place during the month of November.
“Currently we are providing some services there by appointment,” explains RAIN CEO Chelsea Gulden. “But we are still in the process of furnishing it and we’re going to do a larger kind of ribbon cutting community-wide grand opening once we have solidified furniture delivery dates.”
Playing off the name of the organization RAIN and the purpose the facility will serve, board members and volunteers came up with the perfect name for the site: The Drop (like RAIN Drop and Drop-In, get it?)
“So the space is specifically for young men who have sex with men; and those of color. And it’s a status neutral house, which means that it is not dependent on someone’s HIV status,” Gulden continues. “Everybody gets services. And those services range from testing to PrEP or HIV medical care, depending on the status. They also get linkage to medical care, medication adherence, transportation services, and we’re hoping to partner with loaves and fishes to get a closed food pantry.
“We chose a house specifically because we wanted to be able to provide laundry services and potentially showers in the future. That’s more of a longer term goal and there’s going to have to be some renovations before we get to that point.”
In addition to HIV testing, STD testing and monkeypox testing, The Drop will be providing mental healthcare, as well as helping people apply for jobs.
“We’re also creating an Amazon Wish List just for The Drop,” Gulden offers. “So there are lots of things people can do to help by donating food and snacks, cell phone chargers and professional services for the building itself.”
In years past, more often than not, most non-profit community help organizations would lease spaces to house their facilities. With the loss of Charlotte’s former LGBTQ Community Center – a series of leased locations – and the staying power of the South Carolina Harriet Hancock LGBTQ Center in Columbia (a purchased building) it’s clear that purchasing a property provides a good deal more security.
“And that’s one of the reasons why we wanted it, because when we were looking initially, we thought we wanted to lease, butit was going to be more expensive on a monthly basis to lease than purchase,” says Gulden.
“But also, we really wanted something that felt like a home, because a lot of our clients are experiencing housing instability, and even when they’re in a house, they’re not always stably housed, so we wanted something that felt like a safe space. And we wanted to make sure that it felt as safe and as possible, but it had to be zoned for business. And so that’s where it took a little bit of time to locate something that was affordable, in a good location, on the bus line and that really gave that safe household type of feel.”