A Neighborhood Divided: Community Resistance to an AIDS Care Facility

By Jane Balin | Go to book overview

[1]

The Neighborhood and the Sociologist

It was in the fall of 1988 when the residents of West Highland * first heard that a forty-two bed nursing home for people with AIDS (PWAs) was going to open in their neighborhood. Located on the northwestern outskirts of a large Northeastern city called Park City, West Highland was a middle-class community nationally renowned for its progressive politics and its long history of racial and ethnic integration. The sponsors of the AIDS nursing home, a Lutheran organization known as the Lutheran Complex, and many of Park City's top-ranking government officials believed that the liberal, tolerant, and socially conscious nature of West Highland made it an ideal community to host an AIDS care facility. The neighborhood had a Victorian atmosphere, with large brownstone houses set far back from the street, some on considerable acreage. Its walkways were lined with large old oaks, maples, and pines, and it had many well-kept parks. Those features were all thought to provide a scenic and potentially restorative environment for PWAs. The fact that the building to be used for the AIDS care facility had previously been a nursing home for the elderly, called Elder Homes, was also considered an advantage. No significant zoning problems were expected. The “Lutherans, ” as the neighbors referred to them, were now calling the building Chaver. Chaver is a Hebrew word meaning “a friend.”

____________________
*
West Highland is a pseudonym, as are the names of residents, the nursing home and its sponsor, and the city in which these events occurred.

-1-

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