The call came in on a Friday afternoon. The hospital social worker was in a bit of a panic. She had a client, soon to be discharged. Homeless, African-American, transgender, with no income and HIV-positive. Hailing from a conservative rural area outside our liberal city, we soon came to understand the client was not treated well and the hospital was patient dumping.
We took her in, admitting Skye to Doug’s House, our residential HIV special care facility. Staff immediately connected her to quality, affirming HIV medical care, needed medications, and coordinating specialty care for other long untreated health conditions. Our social worker helped her apply for Social Security.
Skye blossomed with the protective care of Doug’s House. Her health improving, she was happy, laughing, and optimistic, quite different from when she first arrived. She was placed in line to receive an apartment at our affordable housing complex. She even reconnected with estranged family – a rarity for Doug’s House clients – though they continued to call her by her birth name.
Unfortunately, the realities of her health and how long she’d gone without quality care caught up with her. Just days after celebrating her 30th birthday, systems started shutting down and she was admitted to ICU. Staff visited to cheer her up, but she passed within the week.
This seems like a story from much earlier in the HIV epidemic and transgender rights. However, Skye was admitted to our program in May 2023 and died in August 2023. In the three short months she was with us, she touched our hearts and helped us to again see the reason for our work.