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Bettendorf Place, AIDS Facility, Holds Grand Opening On South Side

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The Alexian Brothers AIDS Ministry, a Catholic group that for twenty years has provide supportive services to people living with HIV and AIDS, is opening its doors on the South Side of Chicago.

Bettendorf Place, a permanent housing facility for HIV/AIDS patients, held its Grand Opening ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday.

It will be one of the only supportive-housing facilities for people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) on Chicago's South Side. The Alexian Brothers currently have two facilites open in the Chicago area, one on the north side and one in Waukegan, a northern suburb, according to ABC Chicago.

Michelle Wetzel, CEO of the AIDS Ministry, told WBEZ that the location, at 8425 S. Saginaw, was chosen carefully. "We looked at the demographics of where the HIV population is most populated in the city, and this is one of the neighborhoods that's most impacted," she said. "We felt it was important to open a facility in the community that had the need so that people could stay in their own communities, near their families, near their connections, near their faith communities."

The facility, formerly home to the convent at St. Mary Magdalene Parish, is undergoing a total gut rehab, at the end of which it will offer 23 studio apartments, meeting spaces, offices for counseling, and other services. It's also a green building, with high efficiency lighting, furnace, and elevator. Funding for the project came from the federal stimulus bill, and from two green-development grants.

It will address what advocates describe as a dire need in the Chicago area: more housing for people with the disease. The advocacy group AIDS Chicago issued a report earlier this year [PDF] saying that there is an estimated need for 11,624 housing units for PLWHA, but only 1,367 units actually available. This crisis, AIDS Chicago says, is connected to a wider affordable housing shortfall in the city.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story suggested that Alderman Sandi Jackson was in attendance at the ribbon-cutting event. She did not, in fact, attend.