Commentary: Derrick Chandler, Housing Works Client-Turned-Staffer

He once shuttled between a park bench and a prison cell. He almost died of AIDS-related illnesses. With a helping hand, he turned it around.

Posted: 11/29/2011 06:34 PM EST

In the late 1980s, Derrick Chandler was one of two places: Tompkins Square Park, where he shot drugs and slept, or Riker’s Island jail, where he was sent if he got arrested for stealing to pay for his drug habit.

Chandler nearly died of AIDS-related illnesses before he started to turn his life around. The road was often bumpy, but he credits Housing Works’ prevention services with giving him the tools he needed to finally get clean. “I’m still alive and here from what I learned at Housing Works,” he says. “Housing Works gave me a chance to become whole again.”

Housing Works also helped him discover his gift: helping others. Chandler entered our Job Training Program in 2002, and he began working as a peer advocate, galvanizing other clients to participate in advocacy efforts. He demonstrated such skill that the advocacy department hired him full-time, and he is now our New York State Issues Organizer.

“[The job] makes me feel totally alive and empowered,” he says. “Being an active part of that struggle to lift the oppressor’s foot off the necks of people living with HIV, myself included, and [helping to] give us the right to live in affordable housing, receive proper medical treatment, and not be stigmatized and discriminated against, is the most rewarding part of working for the advocacy department.”

 

For more information on HIV, AIDS and World AIDS Day, please visit BET.com and housingworks.org.

 

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

BET Health News - We go beyond the music and entertainment world to bring you important medical information and health-related tips of special relevance to Blacks in the U.S. and around the world.

 

(Photo: HousingWorks.org)

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