Maitri marks 25 years
by Seth Hemmelgarn
Maitri, a San Francisco nonprofit that provides services to people living with HIV and AIDS who are in need of either hospice care or 24-hour nursing care, is marking its 25th anniversary this year.
The agency, which is at 401 Duboce Avenue, will hold its annual Bliss gala this weekend.
With improvements in treatments and other developments, the AIDS epidemic has changed since 1987, and so has Maitri.
"In the early days of the epidemic, we were nothing but a hospice," said Executive Director Michael Smithwick. "We helped people die."
Throughout its 25 years, all Maitri residents have had advanced AIDS. Now, said Smithwick, "Many people who come to us are not in the active process of dying," but are in need of short-term care.
Residents of the 15-bed facility include people who are getting dialysis or going through chemotherapy and need a place to go as they adjust and get stabilized on their medications.
"With our care, they are able to get better to the point where they can leave stronger," said Smithwick. Maitri still serves people who are terminal, but about half of the clients who came to the agency last year "left stronger after they arrived," he said.
Still, recent days have served as a reminder that some residents don't survive. Two Maitri clients died this week, he said.
They're being added to the agency's remembrance books. Maitri has kept such logs since 1987. When a resident dies, a candle is lit, and staff, volunteers, and friends can write their memories of the person.
'I was all by myself'
Some residents are homeless when they come to Maitri, and some have had no prior treatment for AIDS.
"There are many people who, if they weren't here, would frankly have no place else to go," said Smithwick.
Barbara Eglian, who's 48 and identifies as bisexual, had been using heroin and crack before she came to Maitri more than two years ago. She said the agency "got me off the bad situation I was living in, with drugs. ... I was all by myself."
Eglian said she's able to take her medications every day now and "If it wasn't for Maitri, I'd probably be dead."
Smithwick said the agency's model has changed.
"Transforming the Maitri model" to match "the changing dynamics of the epidemic," he said, is part of the nonprofit's sustainability, which is the agency's biggest challenge.
Another factor in their ability to be sustainable is funding cuts, he said.
Maitri's current budget is about $2.5 million. The agency hasn't finalized its fiscal year 2012-13 budget, but Smithwick predicted it would be around $2.4 million to $2.5 million.
After a cut of almost $45,000 in Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Modernization Act funding since June 2011, Maitri has eliminated the development director and the office manager positions. A nursing shift was also cut by one attendant, among other changes. The nonprofit has 23 full time staff and almost that many part time positions.
This fiscal year, the agency expects to receive a total of about $1.1 million in Ryan White funding.
In the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, Maitri could lose as much as $212,000 in Ryan White money unless the city steps in to fill in the gap.
"We have sufficient reserves right now," said Smithwick. "We're not in any situation where we're in a distress mode where we're desperately looking at cutting jobs" or taking other measures. He credits the "belt tightening" they've been doing, which includes the layoffs. However, if they see the $212,000 Ryan White cut, the agency will have to take "much more serious measures to try to be in a balanced situation."
As of early March, Smithwick's salary was $95,000, the same as when he started his job in January 2011. He declined to comment on his compensation or whether he'd take a reduction in pay.
Maitri's fundraising goal through June is $459,000. That includes $195,000 from community, corporate, and private foundations. The target for individual giving outside the Bliss gala is $99,000.
Some of the agency's savings this year are related to that event. Smithwick's hoping to keep expenses for the gala at $50,000 this year, down from $60,000 in 2011. The agency's hoping for a net income of more than $100,000 from the event, which is what the figure was last year.
The agency has $300,000 left to pay on the mortgage for its building, which is worth several million dollars. Other than that, there's no outstanding debt that's gone unpaid for 30 days or more, according to Smithwick.
"My biggest goal is to get the community to reengage with Maitri and step up their level of giving to hopefully replace what the federal government is cutting," said Smithwick. He noted that other HIV-related agencies are also facing funding troubles.
"If we value the services, then as a community, we need to come together to support them," he said.
Bliss takes place from 6 to 11 p.m., Saturday, May 5 at the W San Francisco, 181 Third Street. Individual tickets are $150. For more information, visit http://www.maitrisf.org.