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Housing for Formerly Homeless AIDS Patients Reopens After Sandy

By Andrea Swalec | February 11, 2013 12:04pm

WEST VILLAGE — More than three months after Superstorm Sandy displaced the 44 residents of the supportive housing facility on Christopher Street near the Hudson River, members of the close-knit community began moving back into their home late last week.

Residents of the Bailey-Holt House, which serves formerly homeless people living with HIV and AIDS, said they are delighted to return to the rooms where many of them had lived for decades.

Speaking Friday inside his fifth-floor room stuffed with family photos and Puerto Rican flags, resident Pedro "Mambo" Colon, 61, said he was elated to move back into the 180 Christopher St. building on Thursday.

"It felt really good," he said. "We've been praying to come back."

When Sandy hit, the bass guitar player who gained his nickname decades ago because of his love of dance, packed one suitcase, his television and his PlayStation, and moved into an apartment in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, with two other Bailey-Holt residents.

Hurricane Sandy caused more than $1 million in structural damage to Bailey-Holt and knocked out its electric and heating systems, scattering the facility's residents across the city.

As of Friday, 16 of the facility's 44 residents had moved back in, according to manager Wayman M. Young.

Opened in 1986, Bailey-Holt was the nation's first residence for people with HIV and AIDS. The six-story facility provides comprehensive health and social services for residents, many of whom are dealing with trauma, drug addiction and mental illness.

Resident Joseph Guerrero, one of Colon's roommates after the storm, said leaving Bailey-Holt, even temporarily, after more than seven years there was hard because he relied on the support system it provides in his recovery from his former abuse of alcohol and cocaine.

"I was scared that leaving here and being out on my own, I would use drugs again," the former plumber, 38, said Friday in a building lounge overlooking the Hudson River.

Though residents are now able to move back into Bailey-Holt, staff office space on the first floor has not yet been restored.

"The priority was the residents," Young said.

Bailey House, Bailey-Holt's parent organization, is currently fundraising to complete the remaining repairs.