Alegria residents inspire others

Mother and son travel to Washington, D.C. for World AIDS Day observance.

Rebecca and Geoffrey [Photo by Paul Hebblethwaite]

World AIDS Day is recognized annually on Dec. 1. This year, The Salvation Army Alegria—serving families in Southern California affected by HIV/AIDS through housing and child development services—joined the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) at their national commemoration. Executive Director Paul Hebblethwaite and a mother and child from Alegria traveled to Washington, D.C. to share the story of The Salvation Army’s work with families affected by HIV/AIDS.

Starting in the late 1980s, The Salvation Army responded to the developing AIDS crisis by coordinating a holistic, contextual response to the epidemic. In Los Angeles, the Southern California Division opened Bethesda House, a licensed residential care program for homeless families struggling with HIV/AIDS and living on skid row. Through evolving treatment practices, the work in Los Angeles continued and strengthened with the opening of Alegria in 2001, a new facility that combined the work of Bethesda House with permanent housing and child development services. Alegria is unique in its combination of services offered to homeless families.

Joining Hebblethwaite for the trip to the nation’s capitol were Rebecca and Geoffrey. Residents of Alegria, the mother and son moved into the residential care program in 2002, where they both received treatment for HIV. In 2006 Geoffrey, who recently turned 12, traveled to Florida with the Make A Wish Foundation. With an immune system ravaged by HIV and hope running out, Geoffrey enjoyed the carefree fun of Disney World. After his return to Los Angeles a new medication allowed Geoffrey to regain some of his health. He currently uses his newfound energy to speak at local schools about HIV and his experience with it. It was a message he took to Washington D.C. and one that inspired the leadership of HUD.

The trip provided an opportunity to spend time with a long-time partner of The Salvation Army that—along with many other organizations and individuals—has worked alongside The Salvation Army in Los Angeles over the last 18 years responding to the unique challenges of homelessness and HIV/AIDS

For more information about The Salvation Army Alegria, visit

Submitted by Paul Hebblethwaite

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