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ODAAT is a program of
Urban Affairs Coalition
Reverend Henry T. Wells
Founder and President One Day At A Time (ODAAT)
Henry T. Wells was born to humble parents in Florida in 1929. As a young man, Henry became a strong supporter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and had the opportunity to march with him in Detroit. Being of modest means, Henry did whatever was necessary to survive in Florida. This often included working in the drug world. While sometimes profitable it was always dangerous. With government agencies hot on his heels he gathered what he had and fled to Philadelphia in 1975 to seek refuge with his mother. There he continued to involve himself in the drug trade where he watched his friends and family overdose and often die. In a "moment of sanity" Henry realized this life was not how he wanted to live. He began trying desperately to get clean and sober- a daunting task.
A bright spot of Henry's recovery was meeting Margaret. Henry was immediately smitten with Margaret but she was less than impressed. With Margaret living across the street from Henry he set out to win her heart. He continued to work on his sobriety daily. In 1976, Henry opened Tommy's Poor Man's Friend furniture store which he operated from 1976-1979. During that time he continued to court Margaret. When asked what attracted her to him Margaret states, "while his persistence was flattering and he had such a way with words- it was his shiny boots." Finally she gave in. They married on November 10, 1979.
As Margaret's husband, Henry was eligible for health insurance benefits. With the help of their insurance provider Henry entered Geoffrey Hospital. The program along with the prayers and support of Margaret helped Henry's sobriety. Upon completion of this program, Henry returned home to Margaret. He continued to be plagued with the reality that many of the friends and acquaintances at Geoffrey Hospital had no place to go upon successful completion of the program thereby increasing their chances of relapse. Henry decided to ask Margaret if a few folks from the program could come and stay with them. Margaret agreed and the legacy began.
Henry understood that most addicts have little or no money, health insurance or a place to live often making them unable to cope with the recovery process without support from other recovering addicts. From the first couple invited to share his home, Henry continued to reach out to other homeless addicts seeking a supportive environment to fight addition. His reputation for success became widespread and the title "The Grandfather of Recovery," was bestowed upon him. In 1983, Henry, now known as "Rev" formally opened his doors and founded One Day At A Time, providing the groundwork for the peer based/community based recovery model.
In July, 1988, eleven children were killed in one week beginning with the death of five year old Marcus Yates. He was caught in a shootout between drug dealers in a variety store. "Rev" felt the call to action now required drastic measures and began organizing the "Casket Marches." Rev and many other supporters protested the on-going violence in Philadelphia by marching through the streets carrying an occupied casket. It later became known that the body in the casket was Rev's son Mel. The news media picked up on the marches and Vernon Odom's program Visions highlighted the march and ODAAT.
Rev continued to be a strong advocate for the homeless and those suffering from addiction. He began to become more of a street advocate marching against the violence and the spread of HIV/AIDS in Philadelphia as well as knocking on doors providing outreach and education. He came to the attention of Pennsylvania Senator Roxanne Jones when they met at a public event. The meeting grew to a fast friendship. Rev was then introduced to U.S. Congressman Lucien Blackwell and Jannie Blackwell who together led the Homeless Task Force. In 1993 Rev and ODAAT began ministering to those homeless living in "Crate City" a community of homeless individuals and families living in cardboard boxes in the corridors of Philadelphia's subways. ODAAT was instrumental in eliminating "Crate City" and finding housing for the people living there.
In 1993 Rev and ODAAT helped organize "Drug Free in 93." This march was a collaboration of all programs providing recovery and housing services in Philadelphia. The march drew thousands of walkers and along with then Mayor Edward G. Rendell and Jim Baker, raised awareness of the epidemic of homelessness, addition and HIV/AIDS in Philadelphia. As a result, city government began to recognize community based recovery programs as legitimate programs and helped define the differences between treatment and recovery.
ODAAT and Reverend Wells have received much acclaim for its vision and programs. They have been featured in many national newspapers including USA Today, The Sun, Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News. ODAAT has also been featured in many national news programs including 48 Hours, World NBC News and 60 minutes to name a few.
For 25 years Rev has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of those suffering from homelessness and addiction. In March 2005 his son, Mel Wells, was named President of One Day At A Time. Mel continues to work side by side with his father to continue the ODAAT legacy. In 2007 ODAAT became a program of Greater Philadelphia Urban Affairs Coalition to help strengthen and support its continued growth.
ODAAT continues to serve thousand of residential clients annually at its facilities supplying recovery, addiction and homeless shelter services. ODAAT provides HIV/AIDS prevention, education and care outreach programs through its prevention and outreach teams who connect with thousands of people annually and boasts an alumni community of over 10,000 graduates and their families. With its program partner, HOPE Worldwide, ODAAT supports a global health outreach initiative. As a result their programs have been replicated worldwide with locations in England, India, Indonesia and Cambodia.
Each year, more than 45,000 people become newly infected with HIV in the United States.
In the United States, men account for 73% of new infections. Philadelphia reports African American women are the fastest growing population.
The CDC estimates that one-quarter of HIV-infected people are unaware of their HIV infection and that these cases account for 54-70% of all new infections.
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Injection drug use (IDU) accounted for 12% of estimated new HIV infections in the United States in 2010.
Philadelphia reported a slightly higher statistic of 13%.
The CDC recommends that everyone in the US aged 13-64, regardless of perceived risk, get tested for HIV to help stop the spread of the disease.
It also recommends that sexually active gay and bisexual men be tested for HIV at LEAST once a year.
One in every two people living with HIV in the United States is Black. Philadelphia reports 67%of new infections are African Americans.
2010 CDC data indicates about half of the just over 1 million Americans living with HIVS or AIDS are black.
High-risk heterosexual contact accounted for 31% of estimated new HIV infections in the United States in 2010.
Philadelphia reported 55% in the same population.
Gay and bisexual men accounted for a significantly greater proportion of estimated new infections nation-wide in the United States in 2010 than any other risk group.
Philadelphia statistics however reported heterosexual's accounted for the largest population.
The CDC estimates that African Americans are more severely and disproportionately affected by HIV than any other racial/ethnic group in the United States.
More infections occur among young people under 30 than any other age group. Persons 30-39 have the second highest infection rate.
Every 9 1/2 minutes another person becomes infected with the HIV virus in the United States.
In 2010 the rate of new HIV infections among non-Hispanic blacks was 7 times the rate among whites. Hispanics saw a rate 3 times that of the white population. Whites accounted for 35% of estimated new HIV infections. Asians/Pacific Islanders accounted for roughly 2% and American Indians/Alaska Natives accounted for roughly 1%.