Kim Moss, the new executive director of Project Lazarus, knows the discrimination associated with being diagnosed with the AIDS virus HIV-positive. In 1987 as a father of two sons, Moss learned he contracted the disease.
Twenty-five years later, he’s proof that by healthy living and attention to medical care, HIV/AIDs is no longer a death sentence.
“I think the uniqueness that I bring (to Project Lazarus) is that I am living with the disease and have been for so long,” Moss said. “I’ve experienced the prejudice and the fear of dying. I was raising two sons as a single dad, and if I had gone, they would have been put in child services. It was a trying time.”
He said he worked hard to take care of himself so he could stay alive for his boys. He said he is a model for those at Project Lazarus, proof that longevity is possible.
“I’ve been here 25 years, and so could they,” Moss said, adding that being HIV-positive is manageable with proper medication and care.
“If people stay on their medication, they could live as long as they would if they didn’t have the disease,” he said.
AIDS services background
Moss’ first-hand knowledge of what residents experience at Project Lazarus is coupled with a strong background of ministry and working with those who have the disease.
Moss, 57, has a bachelor’s degree in Bible studies and a master’s degree in counseling. He’s worked with the homeless population and with several organizations in Memphis that helped clients with HIV/AIDS, namely Aloysius Home (the Diocese of Memphis provided housing for HIV/AIDS clients) and as executive director and director of grants at Friends for Life. When Aloysius Home and Friends for Life merged, Moss was hired to return the agency to solvency, which he did within 18 months. He eventually expanded its program to include all facets of wellness for those with HIV/AIDS.
“It was a personal thing for me to keep it going, having HIV and knowing no other agencies in the Mid South could handle the services,” Moss said.
Getting on board
Project Lazarus’ board held an extensive search to find a new executive director to replace Eric Oleson who led Project Lazarus after Hurricane Katrina.
“We became interested in Kim on review of his resume as he had many, many years of experience in the field,” board chairperson Angela M. Bowlin said. “Following his interview, we knew we had ‘found our man’ so to speak and were hopeful he would accept the job. We are very excited about Kim taking Project Lazarus to the next level in terms of both funding and bettering the lives of our residents.”
Moss said he was extremely comfortable during the interview process and even found an apartment before he was offered the job.
He’s working hard to get to know clients, staff and volunteers at Project Lazarus. In only three weeks, he’s been impressed by the supportive “family atmosphere” at Project Lazarus, the capable board of directors, staff and volunteers that enhance the quality of life for those with
“Eric left the agency in very good condition and leaves a great legacy of doing extremely difficult work,” Moss said.
Moss said he doesn’t plan any earth-shaking changes in the first year, but he will use his extensive experience to position Project Lazarus for future positive growth as he did at agencies in Memphis.
Project Lazarus is the area’s oldest and largest residential facility providing housing for individuals with HIV/AIDS who can no longer care for themselves or who have no one to care for them. It was founded in 1985 through the efforts of compassionate individuals in the Archdiocese of New Orleans.
In addition to long-term, 24-hour care, Project Lazarus also offers transitional housing for up to two years while helping educate clients on medication, health care and healthy lifestyles as well as providing links to community resources for health care, counseling and housing.
“This gives them stability,” Moss said. “A lot of people who come here just need to get on their medications and find a job.”
In working with HIV clients, Moss learned that housing is one of the biggest issues faced.
“Statistics show that 50 percent (of those living with HIV/AIDS) have this problem or are at risk,” he said. “No one can function without a place to live.”
With this in mind, he’s working on possibilities of seeking vouchers for those who can live independently.
Project Lazarus also offers wellness classes for individuals and groups, monthly education for families and friends and a substance abuse program.
Local support important
Moss said community support is what keeps Project Lazarus going. The Archdiocese of New Orleans and fund-raisers such as the upcoming Guardian Angels Awards Gala April 18, the agency’s Halloween party and Bon Appétit home parties are essential.
“I am very honored to be a part of this organization,” Moss said. “I am a person of faith, and it meant a lot to me to see the Catholic Church lead the support for this organization in many ways. When you have a church that sets the response for the rest of the community, it serves as a message that this is an issue that’s important to deal with.”
Christine Bordelon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.