How it started
DOORWAYS began after a group of interfaith leaders joined forces in 1988.
President and CEO Opal Jones explained, “Nobody was focused on housing and folks were shunned by their families. They were usually middle class folks unable to work because of their advanced illness. DOORWAYS became that beacon of hope where people can come and die with dignity, but now our job is to help folks live with dignity and move on with greater levels of independence.”
The organization helps clients in 62 counties on both sides of the river, helping 3,184 people in 2022.
Jones said more than 1% of St. Louis City residents are HIV infected.
In October, DOORWAYS opened its three-acre campus to serve more people.
One of the buildings is the 35,000 square foot building with 50 units which can house up to 112 people per night.
Comprehensive Flexible Housing Program Director Tammy Laws explained the rooms have a full kitchen, bedroom and living room section.
“There are no preconditions for the housing. We meet you where you are. They have struggled being unhoused for many, many years,” Laws said.
There are also community spaces and Laws said, they want to create a sense of community.
DOORWAYS is also focused on wrap-around services.
“We have a food pantry, we have career services. They can participate in behavioral health program at DOORWAYS,” Jones added.
The food pantry was essential, after surveying clients at intake in 2022:
- Half of the clients report weight loss in the last three months due to a lack of food.
- 88% report a lack of food due to food location or affordability.
- 56% have gone one or more days without eating within the past two weeks.
- 67% worry sometimes, all the time, a lot of the time about whether they’ll find food to eat.
The organization has learned these resources are needed.
“There’s interconnectedness with HIV and homelessness, poverty and communities historically marginalized and put that all together, they need a lot of critical services,” Jones noted.
Just last week, the nonprofit broke ground on the second phase on the Jefferson Avenue Campus.
It will offer an additional 39 units for permanent housing.
“It’ll be for those who have HIV and also a co-occurring mental illness or substance use disorder,” Jones said.
Those units are expected to open up next summer.
With a steady increase in patients, Doorways also needs support to grow.
- People can volunteer
- Look at its Amazon Wishlist to restock the pantry or reload essential items
- Donations to run services
Jones said, “For a person living with HIV, it requires a lot of resilience and for as challenging as it can be to work with our client base when you see that level of resilience and the things they have faced and the way they bounced back, it’s something we can all find encouragement.”
If you’re interested in donating, volunteering or learning more, click here.