MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Every Tuesday, as part of our community changers series, we highlight organizations making Memphis better. This week, we caught up with a group that believes in being the catalyst for life-long change for those affected by HIV and poverty.

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Sharmain Winston says she has been discriminated against and bullied because of her HIV status. “I was born with HIV. They found out when I was about four months old.”

Sharmain is a wife and mother of five. None of her children were born with HIV, but when she had her first child, she was looking for assistance and acceptance; that is where Hope House came in.

“Our mission is to improve the quality of life for individuals and families affected by HIV and poverty,” said Lenox Warren, the CEO.

In Shelby County, 7,000 people are living with HIV. “HIV is a chronic disease. It sounds very easy in theory to go to the doctor and take your medication, but if you don’t know how you’re going to eat tonight or how you’re going to care for your kids, that is very difficult to do,” said Warren.

Hope House actually started as a daycare back in 1995. “It’s a painful thing to hear that mothers were looking for place for their kids to go because people were turning them away because of the fear of having an infant with HIV in their daycare,” Warren said.

As HIV evolved over the years, Hope House did too. It turned into a full social services organization, offering daycare five days a week, along with a preschool at no cost to their clients.

They also have programs available to adults. “We have housing assistance, rent and utility assistance, we have mental health services, we do support groups,” the CEO added.

For Sharmain and her family, being in a no-judgment zone is important. She attends support groups, her kids love attending daycare and preschool. And when her husband lost his job during the pandemic, Hope House was there with resources.

“We were evicted last year, and I was able to call Hope House, and they were able to place us in a hotel. I don’t know what we would have done had Hope House not been there,” Sharmain said.

That is why Brown Missionary Baptist Church wanted to give Hope House $1,000 because you should treat your neighbors with dignity no matter their status.

A true community changer.  

For more information about Hope House, click here.