NEWARK, NJ - The city zoning board last night voted to prevent a shelter for people with HIV/AIDS from moving to a different location, which would have allowed the non-profit to nearly double its beds.

Positive Health Care provides counseling, six to 12-month shelters on-site and helps people with HIV/AIDS find financial assistance. The facility is currently located at 333 Washington St. and was looking to relocate a five-minute walk away at 395 University Ave.

The current facility “has existed for 20 years without adverse impact,” said the project’s planner, Allison Coffin.

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The current facility has an 11-bed capacity and shelters up to 30 people with HIV or AIDS a year. The new, three-story facility would have doubled its bed capacity to 20, Positive Health Care Fiscal Officer Al-bayyinah Sloane said.

Sloane said the non-profit was looking to move because PSEG wanted to put a switch operation on its property. Despite the zoning board’s vote last night, the non-profit will still remain in operation at its current location, said an attorney representing Positive Health Care's application. 

The zoning board raised several concerns about the non-profit’s application. Although Positive Health Care was looking to move a short distance, it wanted to move into a zone where the city wants to spur residential developments and doesn’t allow shelters.

“My issue with this is that it’s in the Living Downtown [Redevelopment] Area that clearly prohibits these types of uses,” board member Terry Pringle-Khalif said before voting no.

The board also asked about safety at the current facility. When asked by the board, the non-profit’s fiscal officer recalled an incident where a person climbed a fence and stole hubcaps off employees’ parked cars.

People looking to stay in the facility’s shelter must pass a drug test, she added. If a person at the shelter has a drug relapse, the organization tries to send them to a different detox organization for treatment. However, if there were no spaces available at another organization, Positive Health Care would house the person until space became available.

Positive Health Care offers substance abuse counseling, not treatment, Sloane explained.

While the new facility’s bed capacity would have increased, the amount of staff would have remained the same, Sloane said when asked by the board. There are currently 11 staff members.

Positive Health Care has about 1,000 annual walk-ins for services besides sheltering, Sloane said. The facility was looking to stay in the area since people who need services are familiar with the location and transportation is easily accessible. 

The organization was also seeking to build two parking lots: one with 18 spaces for its 11 employees and another with seven spots. The organization would have transferred the smaller parking lot to the city for it to use, although it did not meet minimum size requirements.

“There is a need for HIV and AIDS servicing here in the city and in the state. It's for the greater good. It's a public service," said board member Charles Hall, who voted yes to the project.

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