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Home may house people with AIDS

A Clearwater group hopes to establish a 64-bed home for people with AIDS, apparently the first of its kind in Pinellas County.

The organizers have applied for permission to open a six-bed adult congregate living facility, or ACLF, in Clearwater. They hope to open the Red Ribbon Homestead next month and gradually expand it to include a 32-apartment complex.

"We're a diamond in the rough right now, but we can make it happen," said Steve Krakower, president of Red Ribbon Homestead.

Pinellas County has some scattered apartment complexes for people with AIDS or HIV, the AIDS-causing virus. Many people who have been infected also stay at nursing homes or in their own homes.

But James Goss of the state Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services said he knows of no other ACLF in Pinellas that is exclusively designed for people with AIDS and HIV. Goss, who is the district AIDS program coordinator for HRS, said there's no doubt the county needs such a facility.

"It's going to fill up quickly," he said.

Barry Pratt, who has HIV and lives at the site that will become the home, said he thinks the plan is great.

Pratt, 48, said it's important for people with HIV to be able to talk to others in the same position.

"I think I'd rather be around someone that knows the situation," he said. "It's easier to relate," he said.

An ACLF is a home for people who need some assistance with the daily chores of living, such as having someone to bathe them or cook for them. But they do not generally require around-the-clock nursing services.

Krakower said he envisions a place where HIV-infected people can live and be accepted and receive care and advice from agencies that help people with AIDS.

In the future, he would like to build a new building adjacent to the apartment complex, one that would house case managers who could help AIDS patients obtain benefits and other help.

Krakower bought the apartments at 1123 Pinellas St. as an investment but said he found it "a dry, mechanical operation that doesn't bring me any joy." He formed an organization to oversee the complex. On the organization are his wife, Carolanne Krakower; Shirley Carlson, who operated a thrift shop in Clearwater called the Rainbow of Love; and Bill Neuschaefer, a chef.

The Health Care Administration, the state agency that licenses ACLFs, is ready to perform an inspection, said Gail McCoy, human services surveyor specialist for the agency. The license could be issued within a few weeks, she said.

Plans call for gradually expanding the ACLF to include all 32 apartments, Krakower said. In the meantime, the rest of the center will operate like an apartment complex, open to people with HIV who do not need to be in an ACLF yet.

Many non-infected people live in the apartments now. Krakower said they can stay until their leases expire or longer if they wish.

In the meantime, the organizers hope to raise money for operating expenses through grants and private donations. They are forming a non-profit corporation.

Pratt said he thinks the center could help people with HIV maintain a positive attitude. He said he has worked hard to keep thinking positively himself.

"If I'm supposed to live, with the help of the Lord, I'll live," he said. Otherwise, "I just request that I be allowed to go peacefully."

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