Fire destroys center for young gay men

HIV prevention program R.E.C. Boyz now without home, supplies

By Jan Stevenson

DETROIT - For many young, gay black men there are few places they can call home, and it just got a little worse for them last week when the R.E.C. Boyz Center, a home-away-from-home for so many, was destroyed by a fire.

"Our program associates are very young men who are mostly from our client base," said Barbara Murray, executive director of AIDS Partnership Michigan. "They all looked just stunned. This had been their space."

The apparent electrical fire ignited sometime during the night of Aug. 17 and ravaged the R.E.C. Boyz Center, located at 1959 E. Jefferson in about 4,000 square feet of loft space. The center was located in a building about a block and a half from its parent organization, APM. No one was in the building at the time of the fire. The building is owned by an investor in New York and managed by Exclusive Realty in Detroit.

Although insurance will cover much of the tangible losses, Murray said it's the intangibles that will be the hardest to replace. All the HIV/AIDS counseling and testing supplies were destroyed, as were all office supplies, paper and R.E.C. Boyz organizational sweatshirts, book bags and T-shirts. The collection of used clothing available for young people is gone, as are the office computers and their files.

The three full-time R.E.C. Boyz staffers are being temporarily housed at APM's offices, and Murray said she is trying to secure a meeting space in the area so the programs can resume as soon as possible.

Now in its fourth year, The R.E.C. Boyz Project (R.E.C. is an acronym for Real Enough to Change) is an award-winning program, federally funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is considered to be one of the top-five HIV prevention programs in the country, targeting young black men between the ages of 13 and 24 who have sex with other men. It is based on a peer-driven model with about 150 youth participating at any given time. The focus is on HIV testing and counseling, both to educate and prevent HIV infection and to get any youth who test positive into treatment as quickly as possible.

If you would like to help the R.E.C. Boyz Center recover from this fire, go to http://www.aidspartnership.org and click on the red ribbon icon that says "I want to help the R.E.C. Boyz."

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