New Calcutta House director seeks to expand services

Although Matt Teter recently moved to the Philadelphia area, he’s no stranger to the housing issues faced by the city’s HIV/AIDS community.

As a former administrator at a Midwestern HIV/AIDS housing organization, Teter saw firsthand the obstacles to adequate housing that HIV/AIDS-positive individuals had to overcome and is hoping to use his experiences to affect positive change for the local community.

Teter, 27, moved to Philadelphia to take on the executive director position at local HIV/AIDS-service organization Calcutta House, which provides housing and other support services for people living with HIV/AIDS, in mid-September.

“I found that it was a unique opportunity to move to a city that was in desperate need of the programs and services that I felt I could help deliver,” Teter said. “I’m enjoying the opportunity and challenge that it will be to expand to meet the need for added AIDS housing here in Philadelphia.”

Teter, who is openly gay, served for three years at Doorways, an HIV/AIDS-housing establishment in St. Louis, as the director of development and communications.

“Doorways served as a national model for the full continuum of AIDS-housing options. It was led by Dr. Lynne Cooper, who’s one of the foremost leading experts in AIDS housing in the nation. The time I spent there learning from one of the best how to develop AIDS housing and how to quickly address the ever-changing need for it was very valuable.”

Teter said that his time in St. Louis showed him that to meet the varied needs of the HIV/AIDS community, no matter which city they’re living in, service providers need to be well attuned to the people they are assisting.

“When you look at HIV/AIDS, you can’t really find another health issue that our society faces that has so dramatically changed over a short period of time. If you look at the changing demographics, the fastest-growing group affected by the disease is young African-American women, many of whom have dependent children. This is a different demographic than we were working with at the beginning of the epidemic,” Teter said. “So when it comes to housing, you need to develop housing options that address that changing demographic; instead of having one-bedroom apartments, maybe two- or three-bedroom ones to accommodate children and other supportive services that go along with housing children.”

Now that he’s taken the reins of Calcutta House, Teter said he’s looking to first ensure the organization’s financial stability in light of the economic crisis, but is also gearing up to expand the housing options the organization offers its clients.

Currently, Calcutta House has 31 private rooms for individuals with HIV/AIDS; the organization’s Serenity Court housing options provide more direct medical services and assistance while its Independence Place is geared more toward individuals who can live on their own.

“There is a greater need than we’re meeting at this point for highly supportive housing options, so we are currently looking into expanding those services. We are also developing plans for more independent-living options for people living with AIDS, and we have every intention of breaking ground on a new building that would offer those options by the end of this year,” he said. “Our long-term expansion plans would be to continue those efforts and develop as much independent housing as we possibly can to address the overwhelming need for those services in the Philadelphia area.”

Jen Colletta can be reached at [email protected].

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