It only seems fitting, David White says, that Caracole Inc.’s
offices are now at the former Charles Miller Funeral Home in Northside.
The funeral home was one of only two in the entire Greater Cincinnati area that would accept the bodies of AIDS victims in the 1980s.
“Back in the day, people thought you could catch it from a sneeze,” says White, Caracole’s Community Investment Coordinator. “But the folks at the Miller funeral home were not scared. You have to remember, this was back in the days when AIDS was a death sentence.”
Caracole, the non-profit that that provides safe, affordable housing and supportive services for individuals and families living with HIV/AIDS, moved into the former funeral home at the corner of Hamilton Avenue and Knowlton Street June 29.
The move was necessitated after Caracole assumed the caseload from fellow local nonprofit Stop AIDS in April 2011. The shift increased Caracole’s clients from 200 in Hamilton County to nearly 1,000 clients served in eight counties, White says.
“The best thing, my favorite thing, has been the community of Northside. They have been so welcoming,’’ he says. “The neighborhood is so excited a social services agency is here, let alone an AIDS group. It’s been amazing, really.”
The move more than doubles their space to 9,400 square feet, centralizes their location and puts them directly on Metro routes. It is also close to hospitals and provides private offices for staff.
The new location houses the group’s administrative and case management offices. Two transitional homes, each with 11 beds, did not move. Those homes provide housing and services for homeless residents who are HIV positive or suffering from AIDS.
White is excited because the increased space means many like services are now under one roof. Caracole’s HIV/AIDS support groups can meet regularly, which was not the case at their former Roselawn location.
A local GLBT group will also hold meetings at the offices, and two employees from Planned Parenthood of southwest Ohio will administer anonymous HIV tests there.
“We would not have been able to move without the donations—from paint, furnishing and the majority of the carpeting,’’ says White, who estimated that donations were worth tens of thousands of dollars. “This helps us save money on rent and is money we can put toward client services.”
Two foundations provided more than $30,000 to move the group’s offices as well as for data installation.
Matt Kotlarczyk, who bought the 15,000-square-foot building with a partner in late 2011 for $260,000, says redeveloping it with Caracole has gone extraordinarily well. Caracole signed a 10-year lease for first-floor offices.
“It gives them a new home and us a good, solid investment,” says Kotlarczyk, a local sculptor who owns Refined Sugar Studio.
Future Life Now LLC
is leasing about 2,500 square feet on the second floor of the building. Another 3,500-square-foot space on the second floor and the 3,500-square-foot hearse garage, which is fully insulated, remain vacant, he says.
Kotlarczyk has been told the building, originally built in 1875 and added onto numerous times, was the longest continuously operated funeral home in Cincinnati.
And at least one woman thought it still was.
The woman walked into Caracole’s offices a couple weeks ago, White says, and asked who she might talk to about funeral services.
That wouldn’t be Caracole. They are too busy working on living.
• Attend Caracole’s open house celebration from 4 to 9 pm, Sept. 13, 4138 Hamilton Ave. There will be music, a photo booth and tours. It is not a fundraiser.
• Call 513-679-4455 to schedule an anonymous HIV test, administered at Caracole through Planned Parenthood, Monday-Thursday from 9 am to 5 pm, and Friday from 9 am to 1 pm.
• Email firstname.lastname@example.org
to volunteer your time.
• Donate cleaning supplies or toiletries to Caracole’s pantry to help residents.
• Use your Kroger Plus card to give a percentage of your total spend to Caracole.
By Chris Graves
Chris Graves is assistant vice president of digital and social media at the Powers Agency.