Categories: Network Events
Jimmy Rivera is the longest surviving tenant in Project Hospitality’s HASA supportive housing, coming to the organization in the late 80’s. He has “volunteered his heart out” ever since according to PH’s President and CEO Rev. Terry Troia.
Born and raised in Spanish Harlem, Jimmy moved to Staten Island in the 70’s. After experiencing a lifetime of challenges, cycling in and out of incarceration, struggling with substance use, and experiencing chronic homelessness, Jimmy found Project Hospitality. And as he says: “I found a family. They helped me get my life back together.”
After being diagnosed with HIV in 1991, Jimmy became a member of Project Hospitality’s Positive Living Center, where he got involved with groups from spirituality to recovery and treatment. Said Rev. Troia, “He was like a sponge that just soaked up any goodness that was around him. He really grasped at every good opportunity before him.”
Shortly thereafter he moved into the organization’s very first permanent supportive housing program and was able to complete his GED and reunite with his son, to whom he was fiercely dedicated; together they volunteered at Project Hospitality holiday events.
Jimmy’s involvement in a recovery group led him to the Peer Outreach and Education Team (POETS) program, where he learned the tools to change lives through sharing his story. He told his story to “anyone who would listen” – schools churches, LGBTQ groups, hospitals, and more. He also became an overnight volunteer in a church-based shelter for over ten years.
In 2020, Project Hospitality opened its first undocumented immigrant overnight shelter and Jimmy became an outreach volunteer. Then, in 2022 he became the overnight program volunteer. There he keeps the shelter clean, prepares meals and most importantly ensures the safety of the clients he watches over every night. He has never missed a day of work since.
In 2022, Jimmy was inducted onto the Project Hospitality Board of Directors as a consumer representative and was the first Latino to serve in that position. Although Jimmy is currently living with throat cancer, he remains completely dedicated to serving others and loves his work.
For over thirty years of steadfast service and dedication to his family, his community, Project Hospitality, those living with HIV, struggling with substance use, or experiencing homelessness, we are honored and humbled to celebrate Jimmy as one of our Tenants of the Year.