By Dale Madison
Although Ken Fontaine’s name may not leap out at you, as the Executive Director of Shadowood II—one of the specialized HIV/AIDS service organizations in Broward County—he is a man who leaps into action to help those in need. As its Web site notes, Shadowood II is a structured group home for homeless men and women who are living with HIV/AIDS and various life-threatening conditions.
“Shadowood II was founded in 1994 by Richard Colbert, who had witnessed so many in our community who were down on their luck—or who were literally thrown out of their homes, when their partners learned of their illness,” relates Fontaine. “I know of people who would get out of the hospital and come home to find all of their possessions on their lawn, and the locks changed. Now, here they are, on the street, ill, and no place to go.
“Richard started out with a very few apartments, but he let people know that there was a place for them to go,” he adds. Like many charitable and service organizations, Shadowood II has felt the ripples of the larger—and leaner— economy. “This has been a really rough last few years,” Fontaine acknowledges.
“Budget cuts, and of course, when Hurricane Wilma hit and we lost one of the large Banyan trees in the front of the apartments, we lost power for over a week and all of the food in the freezers and refrigerator.” Time and tide, of course, wait for no one, and the work continues, thanks in large measure to the assistance of local benefactors, who have helped support the work of Shadowood II.
“Over the last few years, we have grown to include more of the seniors in the community, and we have added more apartments,” Fontaine explains. “We work with all of those living with [HIV/AIDS],” he adds, “gay or straight.” “We now have people in Shadowood living here who are up to 80 years old. Sometimes, those who are living with HIV/AIDS may not know—for up to 10 years—as the virus has a way of hiding in the body.”
He stresses the importance of continual testing to determine one’s own HIV status. “Monitor your status,” he says, with emphasis. Fontaine is pleased to report that, following a recent inspection by Housing and Urban Development officials, Shadowood II passed with flying colors, and the facilities qualify to secure federal funding for another year.
“Our new president is Lois Westeroff, and she has done wonders in helping to put us back on track,” Fontaine says. Explaining the process for seeking assistance from Shadowood II, Fontaine explains, “Most of our clients are only with us for a year.
We bring them in from the street, and we have a notolerance policy for drugs or alcohol. We want to help them, and to get them back into society. We want to see them in their own apartment—not in an assisted living arrangement,” he says— and he means it. For more information, visit shadowoodii.org.