Grace House offers hope for those with AIDS, dealing with chemical dependency, and living in poverty

Published: May. 25, 2023 at 9:41 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - You may know someone living with HIV/AIDS, or maybe someone struggling with substance abuse or even homelessness.

Grace House is a local nonprofit that opened its doors in 1993 to help people dealing with these challenges.

Since then, the need has continued to grow, and so has their willingness to help.

But the cost to keep the programs running is not easy.

And that is why they are calling on the community to help them continue their mission in the metro and across the state.

“There was no happiness, there was no life, the drugs are what I lived for,” said Lisa Scott, a senior resident at Grace House.

She entered the home with a troubled past.

Scott says she was raped, and that led to a serious drug addiction.

“That is where the imbalance came in and that is when the negative energy started flowing... I tried crack cocaine, I tried heroin, I tried PCP,” she said.

More than a decade ago, she decided to turn her life around, but that decision came with its fair share of battles. “I became HIV positive during my addictions to drugs, so that was another challenge and a door that I had to go through,” said Scott.

Kalie Jennings also understands the fight to be drug-free all too well.

“I tried heroin, cocaine, LSD, meth, weed,” she said.

She says the temptation of drugs began at an early age, and she was able to fight it until she got pregnant in her 11th-grade year and gave birth to her daughter.

“I moved out probably when she was eight months [old], and I moved to Winona. There was meth everywhere. My mother is a recovering addict, my father is still dealing with addiction, and I just [got[ caught up in the chaos, I guess,” Jennings said. “I have been to jail three times, I lost my daughter - my mom has my daughter- and it took everything from me.”

After losing so much, both women gained a second chance thanks to Grace House extending them a lifeline.

“I was a college dropout and now I took my phlebotomy course and I work at UMMC now,” said Jennings.

“I don’t want to go back out there. I know the people that are out there. Here I am sheltered. There are no drugs no alcohol, there’s some stability,” said Scott.

Grace House was incorporated in the 1990′s to provide housing for people living with and dying from HIV. What began as a 10-bed home in Midtown Jackson has grown into an organization that provides housing and supportive services to people living with HIV.

Also, they help people suffering from chemical dependency and others impacted by poverty.

“Grace House always impressed me by the way they’re able to take people from the street and provide them with everything they need and move them into permanent housing,” Executive Director Stacey Howard said.

While the program can be challenging for some, the executive director says they continue to push people to not quit. The executive director says Grace House takes a holistic approach, providing people with job training, housing, food pantry services, and financial literacy lessons.

“Without this place, people who are coming to us because they’ve had housing issues that have been impacted by chemical dependency would remain in the cycle of chemical dependency and homelessness,” Howard said.

“Without Grace House, people [who] need housing who are HIV positive will be put in a situation with the homeless, [and] in many cases be [in] situations where they could not maintain their healthcare and medication,” she continued.

On any given night, Grace House provides housing for more than 600 people.

Last year, Grace House assisted over 2,000 people.

“I wake up to emails at 1 a.m., 2 a.m., or 3 a.m., from people who were homeless and displaced on the streets. And oftentimes, they are with their children and need someone to help them,” Howard said.

This is why the community and donors are so important.

The more financial support the nonprofit can receive, the more they can continue helping people go from hopeless to hopeful.

“Grace House is about building lives and helping people to matter. Life matters to us because a lot of people are HIV [positive], and a lot of people have incurable diseases. Grace House has opened up so many doors,” said Scott.

“I think we are going to continue to grow and continue to impact our community in a positive way,” said Howard.

The 6th Annual Old School Party with a Purpose fundraiser for Grace House will be held Saturday, May 27, at the Mississippi Trade Mart Center.

The Steven James Foundation is hosting the fundraiser.

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