Prioritizing your needs
This section of the module is built to help you identify the kind of housing that meets your needs and is feasible. It’s divided into physical, social/cultural, and HIV-specific considerations. You can read through the content online below, or click here to download a printable, interactive tool that you can use, then take with you when you’re searching for housing.
This Section is Broken Down By (click to jump below):
The physical space people live in can positively or negatively affect their health and well-being. In the Positive Living, Positive Homes study, participants living with HIV said that safe buildings, bright windows, functioning utilities (e.g., electricity, water), access to outdoor spaces, and adequate kitchen space were favourable to their health. They said that factors such as air pollution, littering, noise, too many stairs, and feeling unsafe negatively influenced their health. If possible, it’s a good idea to visit the area where you’re thinking of moving at different times of the day, so you can see what it’s like and assess safety, light, and noise levels.
For the following statements, think about whether each thing is absolutely necessary (you won’t move if it’s not there), very important to you, or something you’d like to have but isn’t critical. You may want to write down statements that are absolutely necessary or very important, to keep a list of your priorities.
- What is the minimum number of bedrooms you need for your family? In subsidized housing, will the rules about the number of bedrooms required for your family and how your family members can be placed in them work for you?
- Does your housing have to accept pets?
- Do you need accessible or barrier-free housing?
- Can you handle stairs?
- Will you be able to clean on a regular (daily or weekly) basis?
- Do you have specific needs in the bathroom? (e.g., bathtub, bars to assist you with entering the shower)
- Do you have specific needs in the kitchen? (e.g., full-sized fridge, stove, counter space, cabinets)
- Do you need extra storage space outside the apartment?
- What level of noise are you able to withstand in an apartment?
- Do you need windows that open?
- Do you need a yard or other outdoor space?
- Do you need a parking space?
- In what geographical neighbourhood must the house be located for you to access the necessary schools, services, etc. that you use?
- Do you have specific needs about the physical environment around the building?
Some participants in the Positive Living, Positive Homes study experienced illness or decreased well-being in housing situations that had negative social influences. Examples include people who had decided to stop using drugs or alcohol but lived in places where drug selling or drug use was visible, people who had stable housing but were pressured to host parties or let others stay there, and people who lived near friends or family who stigmatized their HIV or were generally unsupportive of their well-being. In other situations, individuals talked about choosing to stay in particular neighbourhoods where they had developed friendships, built connections within their cultural community, or could talk to people in their first language.
What’s most important to you?
- Do you want to live alone or with other people?
- What parts of a building could you comfortably share with others? (e.g., bathroom, kitchen)
- Are you able to cook and clean for yourself or do you need assistance?
- Do you need meals delivered to you?
- Do you need assistance with medication or reminders to take medication?
- Is it important that friends or family are able to visit you whenever you want?
- Do you need a smoking-friendly building? A smoke-free building?
- If you’re using drugs or alcohol, do you want support in managing your substance use?
- Do you want to avoid seeing people selling or using drugs or alcohol inside your building or in the area?
In a few areas of British Columbia, there is housing specifically for people living with HIV. You can find out if this is available in your area by talking to an HIV or social services organization.
There are different kinds of HIV-specific housing—some provide health care, some offer support services, and others require fully independent living. Some people find a sense of security and belonging by living in this kind of community. Others prefer housing that is not associated with HIV. Overall, one of the biggest considerations with HIV-specific housing is a person’s level of comfort with having their HIV status known.
In general, when applying for housing, you do not need to tell anyone that you have HIV. Your landlord does not have the right to know about your health or why you receive monthly income assistance payments. If you decide to apply for HIV-specific housing though, you will need to disclose and provide proof of your HIV status. Living in a housing unit or building designated for people living with HIV means that a person’s HIV status likely cannot be kept a secret.
- How important is privacy when it comes to your HIV status? Do you prefer that not everyone learn about your HIV status?
- Will you be okay if family, friends, or others find out that you have HIV because of where you live?
- Do you want housing that comes with care or services to support your health? (e.g., meals, cleaning, medication reminders, harm reduction, access to harm reduction supplies)