Harbor Homes lending help to AIDS victims

NASHUA – Stanley Luicha knows the cost of sickness.

He knows what it’s like to become so sick with AIDS that he lost his job and with it a good salary as a computer systems analyst.

He knows what it’s like to become so sick that he had to cash in his 401(k) to buy a small mobile home so he could live near a niece who helped care for him.

“Although it was eight years ago, I remember what it’s like to be sick and not able to work and not have enough money to pay bills,” Luicha said Thursday during a program to announce that a federal grant has been awarded to Harbor Homes.

But Luicha, 56, can only imagine what it would be like not to have a caring family nearby.

“Many people with AIDS don’t have family able to help them out,” he said.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded $547,000 to Harbor Homes to provide short-term mortgage, rental and utility assistance, as well as support services, for individuals living with HIV or AIDS.

The three-year grant is a renewal, and this marks the third time – cover ing 10 years – that Harbor Homes has received the money, according to Wendy Furnari, assistant director of the Southern New Hampshire HIV/AIDS Task Force.

Awarded under HUD’s Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) program, the money is intended to help create stable homes for low-income people struggling with a diagnosis of HIV or AIDS.

Harbor Homes partners with the HIV/AIDS Task Force to administer the grant. The task force provides clients housing case management and counseling support services. Since the program’s inception, nearly 200 people living with HIV/AIDS in southern Hillsborough County have received services.

In Luicha’s case, he needed HOPWA assistance after he had to move to Nashua to be closer to his doctor’s Merrimack office.

Luicha lived in Manchester when he became sick. He moved to the North Country to be near his niece, and then sold his mobile home to buy a car. Three years ago, he found an apartment in Nashua, choosing the city over Manchester because at that time Nashua had better services for AIDS patients.

At times when Luicha couldn’t make his rent because of hospital bills or car repair costs, he received assistance through the HOPWA program.

Stress isn’t good for the immune system, Luicha said. Knowing the rent assistance was available helped relieve stress, he said.

Furnari lost her best friend to AIDS 13 years ago.

“When he got sick, the only service was a weekly support group,” she said.

Her friend had to leave his home, family and friends in Nashua to move to Boston “to get his basic needs met,” Furnari said.

That was in 1991. Now, services in Nashua have expanded greatly, and Taylor Caswell, the HUD regional director, called the task force a model program.

“It’s not a huge surprise,” Caswell said of the renewable grant. “But it’s a half million more dollars to keep the program going.”

He added about the services provide by Harbor Homes: “It shows you’re a community who really cares about people in need.”