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BBH Chronic Care

Read about the writer, Ellie David.

Finding a Home Away from Home

Just before he turned 30, Robbi learned he was HIV-positive. “I was scared,” he says. “Terrified.”

Depression set in. During the next nine months he was hospitalized twice after suicide attempts. He lost his job, his boyfriend, his housing, his cat.

“I had that ‘Things couldn’t get worse’ feeling,” he says. “If I hadn’t come to Bailey-Boushay [in November], I probably would not have made it to Christmas. I had no options.”


Getting on HIV medication was his top priority. After several tries he also found an antidepressant that “really helps a lot.” He’s also returned to his normal weight by regaining 30 pounds.

“Surprisingly enough, I’m still in pretty good health,” he says. “I’m not sick, I have no fever. Sometimes I have some blood pressure issues.”

Even more surprising, he says, is that he’s found a community that values him.

Robbi’s been estranged from his family since high school. “I came out to them when I was 16. That’s the first time I got depressed,” he says.

For two years his parents tried to “pray the gay away.” First they sent him to daily sessions with an “ex-gay” counselor, and later to shock therapy. “I kept saying, ‘I don’t want to change. I’ve accepted who I am.’”

Legally independent at 18, he left home. Even after all these years, he says, “I have to hope that one day they’ll miss me and call.”

Robbi says Bailey-Boushay is his family now. “Coming here made me feel not alone, that I’m not the only person going through this,” he says. “And I realized I’m not doing this by myself.”

He’s unsure what’s coming next. A home? Or a job? He’s looking for both. “And I’m coming in almost daily because I feel like I need that open arm, that caring, that social interaction.” And he’s hopeful about the future. “I want to see my fifties and sixties — hell, even my seventies and eighties.”

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