Imagine a place where a hot meal is being prepared for you in the kitchen, a place where you feel a part of a family. Imagine a place where people greet you and warmly ask how you are doing. Imagine a place buzzing with the sounds of conversation and laughter, a place where you’re accepted for who you are. You meet people like yourself whom you can trust to help you learn how to take better care of yourself, because you’ve realized that it’s never too late to be what you might have been - and that it is time to stop living like we are dying of HIV and AIDS. Welcome to the Albany Damien Center – we’re so glad you’re here!
The Albany Damien Center provides a resource center, programs, and activities for individuals and families living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. Our mission is to enhance the lives of people affected by HIV/AIDS in an affirming environment and to reduce new infections in the communities we serve. Our vision is a community where people with HIV/AIDS achieve their desired potential and are respected as coworkers neighbors and friends, while striving for an HIV free generation.
The Albany Damien Center opened in 1988 and was incorporated in 1990 as the first AIDS drop-in center in the United States. Named after Saint Damien of Molokai, who ministered to people with leprosy in the late 1800s , The Damien Center is not a faith-based organization, yet invites persons from all religious and spiritual organizations to participate in helping with Center services.
From November 1988 to September 1998, the Damien Center was located at Grace & Holy Innocents Church on the corner of Robin and Clinton Avenue in Albany. In September 1998, the Albany Damien Center purchased the property at 12 South Lake Avenue, Albany, NY 12203 which served as the agency headquarters and program site until a fire destroyed the building and its contents on August 29, 2013. We relocated to the First Lutheran Church at 646 State Street, Albany, NY, where we offered our full range of services without interruption while building our new Damien Center.
On November 6, 2017. The Albany Damien Center moved to its new 26,000 building located at 728 Madison Avenue, Albany, NY, just two blocks down from the former Damien Center. The new $5.6 million building serves as our agency headquarters and offers drop-in programs in a warm, comfortable setting for over 400 people living with HIV and AIDS annually. The site also has 20 apartments utilizing a housing-first model for 22 people living with HIV/AIDS who were homeless. This project is made possible from a $4.3 million grant from OTDA’s Homeless Housing & Assistance Program and funding from the fire insurance settlement and fundraising. The Albany Damien Center opened its second site in Schenectady in November 2014 with collaboration from Schenectady Inner City Ministries.
The Albany Damien Center program areas include the AIDS Community Center (est. 1990), Treasure Chest Thrift Shop (1999), Smart Meals (2001), PAWS (2003), Foundations for Living (2012), and Mpower Albany (2014). The Albany Damien Center serves the upstate New York region in communities located in Albany, Clinton, Columbia, Delaware, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Green, Hamilton, Montgomery, Otsego, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, Warren, and Washington Counties.
The Damien Center employs 40 staff members and utilizes over 85 volunteers each year to deliver services in a caring, trauma-informed, grassroots approach. Since 1999, Perry Junjulas, Executive Director and person living with AIDS who first came to the Damien Center in 1995 for help, has led the organization and has encouraged active participation by people living with HIV and AIDS in all areas of program service delivery.
The AIDS Community Center Program provides drop in programs including HIV+ peer-led access to care, supportive counseling, HIV prevention support groups, holistic therapies (massage, Reiki, spiritual care), HIV/AIDS information resources, computer access, consumer advocacy, and opportunities for social and recreational activities. The Treasure Chest Thrift Store provides vocational training opportunities, and clothing, furniture, and household items for clients in need. Smart Meals combines nutrition education with well-balanced nutritious hot meals prepared on site, grocery bags, and food vouchers to local supermarkets. PAWS (Pets are Wonderful Support) provides task, financial, and informational assistance to pet owners living with HIV/AIDS to ensure that they are not separated from their animal companions when they need each other the most. Foundations for Living, helps individuals living with HIV/AIDS gain employment, vocational training, and stable housing. Mpower Albany, located at ROCKS, 77 Central Ave, second floor, Albany, provides prevention services and a drop-in center for young men of color (ages 18-34) who have sex with men.
In 2016, The Albany Damien Center served over 400 individuals living with HIV/AIDS and their affected members of their support system who are not accessing HIV medical treatment and supportive care services and have limited social supports. Our members typically are living in severe poverty, are unstably housed, have co-morbid health conditions (mental health, substance use disorder, trauma, et.al), suffer from the continued HIV stigma present today, and have inadequate or nonexistent psychosocial supports. They do not access medical nutritional therapy, have food insecurity, and possess little knowledge of food safety or nutrition.
The Damien Center is a unique resource in our Northeastern New York community for people living with and at risk for HIV/STI/hepatitis. We provide programs in a comfortable, trauma-informed, and supportive HIV+ peer-led environment using a health and wellness education model. Our client-centered approach addresses the physical, psychological, and environmental impacts on an individual’s overall health. Staff understand the barriers and issues faced by people living with HIV/AIDS and deliver programs utilizing a culturally sensitive, client focused, harm reduction approach. We work to ensure each person has unfettered access to the life enriching treatment and support they deserve, ensuring HIV prevention in the process.