Ronnell's Story

In 1995, my brother, Ronnell DeShon Gardner passed away from AIDS-related pneumonia. Prior to that, he died a slow and agonizing social death as word spread that he had AIDS. As people sought to understand how a “perfectly healthy” 20-year-old heterosexual male was diagnosed with AIDS, the myths and fears were heightened within him and us - his family. He spent the last days of his life, as many did in 1995, living in isolation between the hospital and home until he was required to go to a nursing home to live out his last days.  


Admittedly, my brother’s passing was my secret that I only shared once someone else disclosed losing a loved one to an AIDS-related illness. In fact, in 1995, the CDC reported that there were “over one-half million reported AIDS cases and over 62 percent died.” While science and definitions were improving it remained the case that there was a notable shift in the racial and ethnic profiles of those being most impacted. My brother was not alone and nearly every American household knew someone who was living with HIV or dying from an AIDS-related illness.


Over the years HIV began to fade into the background as improved medication and treatment options offered the opportunity to live a longer and healthier life. In fact, I celebrated with many others that HIV was no longer a death sentence. Yet, in 2020, House of Mercy remained a much-needed program offering housing to people living with HIV.  The increase in people who needed financial assistance to remain housed reminded us that more of our neighbors are navigating this chronic condition than we thought, and they need help. With the guidance of our Board of Directors, we took action, just like we did in 1991, to create a model to meet the unmet needs of our time.  

House of Mercy helps people at the intersection of poverty, housing insecurity and health inequities by providing housing and supportive services. We believe that housing stability is essential to managing a chronic condition and that health equity must be the cornerstone of programs that address health.

In 2023, we helped six people through our PALM Program and 16 in our Positive Connections program. Over the last three years, we have helped 54 people remain in their homes and able to manage their health. In our 33-year history, we have helped over 380+ people and counting.  

As I approach my 42nd birthday, I celebrate my brother Ronnell and ask that you support us on the front lines of justice to ensure that our clients LIVE IN DIGNITY.  During the month of February, my wish and hope is that I can count on your generosity to support our CARES Fund which provides emergency assistance and supportive services to our clients in the broader community.  A donation of $4.20, $42, $420, or more...would greatly benefit those in need. 

Thanks in advance for your generosity!

All the best,

Latoya Garder, President/CEO

House of Mercy



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