Showing posts with label Gay Senior Living. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gay Senior Living. Show all posts

December 7, 2019

Thanks to SAGE Finally The Commencement of Senior LGBT Housing For NYC Individuals

A rendering of the Ingersoll Senior Residences in Fort Greene, due to open in December.

A rendering of the Crotona Senior Residences in the East Tremont section of the Bronx set to open in February or March of 2020. 


When the Ingersoll Senior Residences adjacent to Fort Greene Park on Brooklyn’s Myrtle Avenue open for occupancy as early as next month, the 16-story, the 145-unit apartment building will not be the nation’s first affordable, LGBTQ-friendly elder housing development. But it will be the largest to date.
Created through a partnership between SAGE, Advocacy & Services for LGBT Elders, and the development firm BFC Partners, Ingersoll is also unique, said SAGE CEO Michael Adams, in being “intentiona­lly built as an intersectional community.” 
Similar LGBTQ-friendly senior housing already exists in cities including Philadelphia, Chicago, Minneapolis, San Francisco, and Los Angeles — and have typically been cited in the “gayborhood,” in New York generally thought to be Chelsea, a predominantly white community that has become increasingly expensive.
The greatest need for affordable housing to serve LGBTQ seniors in New York, however, is in communities of color. For that reason, Adams explained, for the first two projects his group embarked on here, SAGE chose Fort Greene, a longtime African-American community, and the largest Spanish-speaking East Tremont section of the Bronx, where a second development, Crotona Senior Residences, will open at a site across from Crotona Park in early 2020. 
Ingersoll is built on the existing grounds of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) Ingersoll Houses in a neighborhood that is undergoing widespread gentrification. In fact, the new building is not so different in appearance from the upscale apartment and condo high rises that have mushroomed throughout Fort Greene and Downtown Brooklyn, leading some Ingersoll Houses residents and their neighbors to worry, Adams said, that the new senior development is a part of that wave.
In fact, the ground rules for accepting applicants to the Ingersoll Residences were set up to serve seniors with the greatest need. Under the income limits that govern renting in the building, where tenants will make use of federal Section 8 vouchers, couples have an income upper limit of just under $42,000, while single residents face a cap of just under $37,000. 
Fifty-four of the units are reserved for people who already live in NYCHA housing or are wait-listed for it, while 25 percent of the units will go to those who have been homeless. On that second criterion, SAGE had to shape a novel approach to work around how the city generally defines meeting that requirement. Homeless status under existing affordable housing programs has meant living in a shelter, but SAGE successfully argued that many members of the LGBTQ community without a permanent home avoid the shelters out of concern about their safety around other residents who may harbor homophobic and transphobic prejudices. SAGE and the city were able to come to agreement on a more flexible definition of what qualifies as having been homeless. 
Under city and state nondiscrimination statutes, of course, Ingersoll cannot rent exclusively to LGBTQ seniors, and Adams estimated that almost half of the initial residents will be non-LGBTQ, even as the building in other important respects is designed to meet the specific needs of the queer community, both in terms of “wrap-around” social and health services and in having a 6,000-square-foot SAGE Center on site. That Center will serve both Ingersoll residents and the outside community. Though SAGE will not own or manage the residential building, it will oversee the Center, which will include case management and urgent health care aimed at providing a bridge to fuller service providers.
In a city as vast and expensive as New York, there is a crying need for affordable housing for seniors from all its diverse communities, but SAGE’s recognition of the specific needs facing LGBTQ elders is evidence-based. A survey of 3,000 LGBTQ elders by SAGE found significant anxiety about facing discrimination in senior housing and that those elders are more likely than their straight peers to live alone and, especially among lesbians and transgender folks, have fewer financial resources. One in eight gay men and lesbians reported facing discrimination in searching for senior housing, with a full 25 percent of transgender people reporting the same.
A 10-state study carried out by the Equal Rights Center found that discrimination is more widespread than community members themselves perceive or report. Two hundred pairs of same-sex and different-sex couples were sent into senior housing facilities as testers to identify discrimination. In 48 percent of the tests across the 10 states, the experiment uncovered discrimination against gay and lesbian applicants. Discrimination occurred even in states and localities with LGBTQ civil rights protections, the best state of the 10 producing discrimination in more than a quarter of all tests. 
This past spring’s application window for Ingersoll proved its appeal. For 145 units — 84 one-bedrooms for couples and 61 studios for single people — only 2,000 applications online applications were going to be accepted. Within three hours, 1,600 had already been filed. A successful applicant for the 145 slots would have to have filed within the first eight minutes.
In providing LGBTQ-friendly housing, SAGE is mindful that in any 16-story building with both LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ residents even ordinary conflicts between neighbors could take an unfortunate turn involving hostile anti-gay or anti-trans sentiments being voiced. But Adams noted the self-selection involved in non-LGBTQ people applying to live in an LGBTQ-friendly building. He also emphasized that a SAGE staff of at least five will be on hand in the building and that the group has reached out to similar facilities in other cities to discuss successful conflict mediation strategies. An important part of the new residents’ orientation, he said, would focus on forging a “group” spirit among the tenants. 
SAGE will have little time to rest on its laurels once Ingersoll opens, with the 84-unit Crotona Senior Residences, of which SAGE is a part-owner, opening up in the Bronx in February or March of next year. There, a seven-story building with 55 studios and 29 one-bedroom apartments, will house the winners of a tenant lottery. Thirty percent of the units there are reserved for homeless elders. That building will host the city’s biggest SAGE Center, at 9,800-square feet.
SAGE is sharing the expertise it has developed in steering these projects to completion with at least a dozen communities around the country, eight of which are planning similar LGBTQ-friendly residential construction. The group has developed a primer for LGBTQ senior housing providers that includes case studies of many of the projects built to date. Adams said SAGE is also looking at the concept of home-sharing, where unattached seniors live together in a supportive, multi-bedroom group setting.
But SAGE is well aware that the community will not build its way out of the shortfall inhospitable options for LGBTQ elders. Many seniors will age in place, which requires that culturally competent social services for them are available in their neighborhoods. And SAGE is also working to engage mainstream housing sector players in learning how to employ best practices in making their developments open and inviting to seniors from the LGBTQ community. 
On October 29, SAGE in collaboration with Citi Community Development hosted a day-long symposium on LGBTQ elder housing, a series of forums and discussions that brought together LGBTQ-friendly housing providers and other community advocates with leaders in the mainstream housing sector. The day explored needs faced by the LGBTQ senior community, models for creating friendly and affirming housing opportunities, and government policy efforts aimed at producing better results. 
The day proved a busy one for SAGE in Washington. As the symposium took place, Adams was also on a panel of experts — that included Human Rights Campaign president Alphonso David and National Center for Transgender Equality policy director Harper Jean Tobin, as well, among others — before the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations for a hearing on housing and lending discrimination against the LGBTQ community.
The current administration in Washington, of course, is a brick wall right now for SAGE like so many other LGBTQ and progressive organizations. The October 29 symposium and House hearing, however, provided SAGE opportunities to continue both to push engagement with the broader housing sector and to address its public policy agenda with the Democratic House, against the day when a more amenable attitude prevails in the White House and in the US Senate.

September 25, 2019

Fighting Loneliness Among Older LGBT People

 Stoke-on-Trent will run from 23 September with the aim of reaching a wider audience with news about the city.
Journalists from across the network will be reported in the six towns that make up Stoke-on-Trent, including from the BBC's national and regional TV and radio outlets and digital services.
And you can get involved 

August 20, 2019

LGBT Senior Living in NYC is A Lifeline But Only For The Very Few

 Brooklyn , NY (Lottery opened last May)

Story by Emanuella Grinberg, CNN 
Video by Alice Yu, CNN

"LGBTQ elders have largely been invisible and people really haven't thought about their needs, both in health, in housing and other areas," social work professor Karen Fredriksen-Goldsen said. 
Their generation of LGBT Americans was the first to unite to demand civil rights and social acceptance. But as the Pride generation has aged, the discrimination they experienced throughout their lives has left them with smaller savings and thinner support networks and in worse health than their non-LGBT peers, said Fredriksen-Goldsen, director of the University of Washington's Healthy Generations center.

All of that leaves them vulnerable to housing instability, she said. But the Pride generation is resilient, she said, and the tide is turning as more cities embrace LGBT-friendly housing.
"I see a lot of promise and progress," she said. "I also think that there's an incredible amount of work to do."

Spivey is one of thousands of applicants hoping for a spot in New York's first LGBT-friendly housing, slated to open in Brooklyn in the fall and the Bronx in 2020. 

Such housing exists in a handful of American cities. But the development in Brooklyn, Ingersoll Senior Residences, is expected to be the country's largest. In addition to units with sweeping views across Brooklyn, Ingersoll will have a community center in the lobby offering meals, programming and health and wellness resources.

Both developments are going up in a partnership with the city and the state, developers and SAGE, the country's oldest advocacy group for LGBT elders. The government-subsidized units -- 228 total -- are open to individuals and couples 62 and older whose annual income is below a designated amount. 
Affordable housing is scarce overall in New York City, but research indicates that the need is acute among LGBT elders.

An estimated 2.7 million LGBT adults in the United States are 50 or older, and one-third live at or below 200% of the federal poverty level, according to SAGE. 

A survey of LGBT elders by Fredriksen-Goldsen found that found that 22% said they have difficulty paying bills and 21% had to cut back on other expenses to make ends meet.
Guy Aiossa, a 67-year-old retired hairdresser, said the rising cost of rent forced him from Greenwich Village to Brooklyn's Far Rockaway more than 20 years ago. But as a gay man, he never felt safe in his new neighborhood, wary of homophobic slurs.

He keeps to himself in his apartment, except when he visits his aging mother on Long Island, he said. Otherwise, he spends his time at SAGE's Midtown Manhattan center, partaking in art classes, mealtimes and support groups, including one he leads for family caregivers like himself.

The hourlong train ride to Manhattan wears on his aching joints, but SAGE is the only community he has left, he said. After losing friends to the AIDS epidemic and witnessing the public's indifference to their suffering, he retreated into his own world, fearful of being further stigmatized, he said. 

Left) Brooklyn           Right) Bronx
Now, once again, he can no longer afford the rising cost of rent, he said. Hoping to improve his quality his life, he applied for a spot in Ingersoll Senior Residences in Brooklyn's Fort Greene neighborhood.

For Aiossa, the prospect of LGBT-friendly housing, complete with a dining hall, a yoga room and health-care resources, is more than a lifeline. It's the opportunity to start a new chapter. 
"I'm still vital, still kicking," he said. "I want to be in a community with like-minded people, where I'm free to be myself." 

Experts say Aiossa's situation is common. 

Our networks naturally thin out over time as friends and family leave us through death or other circumstances. But the difference for LGBT elders is that their communities tend to be peer-based, leaving them on their own when their networks dry up, Fredriksen-Goldsen said.

The first federally funded longitudinal study of LGBT elders found that 51% of those who lived in private residences reported social isolation. And the situation appears worse for those in senior housing, with 72% reporting social isolation.

Other factors unique to the Pride generation make aging different for them. Their main wage-earning years came before marriage equality, same-sex partner benefits or anti-discrimination laws could help them build a financial safety net or access health care. Consequently, discrimination and its side effects have left them with greater health disparities, Fredriksen-Goldsen said. 

Against the odds, they built communities and fought for rights and protections, prevailing on cultural and legal fronts. But the battle is far from over, and research suggests discrimination persists, even in senior housing.

The same study found that LGBT older adults living in senior housing were twice (40%) as likely as those living in a private residence (20%) to experience verbal insults in the past year because they were perceived to be LGBT. Thirty percent of those in an assisted-living facility reported that they experienced LGBT-related verbal insults in the previous year.
These two held down jobs for most of their lives but struggled to make ends meet. Spivey raised five children in public housing in the Bronx amid two marriages and health problems. Now 65 and retired, she relies on disability benefits from Social Security to cover health-care expenses, she said.

Her annual income makes her eligible for her subsidized housing, as long as she doesn't marry her partner and increase their household income.

As Spivey describes the situation, "the rules say that we can't be together and have decent housing."
Spivey, the more soft-spoken of the two, says she has always been "in the community," although she started dating women later in life.

In the 1960s and '70s, she accompanied her gay cousin to "spots that people asked a lot of questions about," she said, such as the Stonewall Inn. As a black woman, she felt out of place in the city's largely white, male-dominated gay scene. But she felt protective of her younger cousin and wanted to stand with him, she said.

After the youngest of her five children left home for college and the death of her mother, who had "strong opinions" against same-sex relationships, Spivey began working for an LGBT center in the Bronx, where her true self began to shine. 

"One young lady would always say, 'you know, Miss Marie, you are the gayest straight person that I've ever met,' " she recalled.

She started visiting SAGE's Bronx center, first as a volunteer and then as a "constituent." She made friends with other lesbians and started dating, albeit cautiously. Her first husband died, her second marriage ended in divorce, and her first lesbian relationship left her emotionally exhausted. For a period of time, she identified as asexual, she said, reluctant to get involved with anyone. 

"I love deeply and long," she said. "I didn't want any more of those quick relationships," 
Then she saw Johnson (for the second time) at a dinner for a SAGE employee and was intrigued. Loud and loquacious, Johnson calls herself a "big black beautiful bohemian bougie Buddhist butch" who went to her first "gay day" parade in San Francisco in the 1980s and never looked back.
Johnson and Spivey met at SAGE's center in the Bronx.

Johnson and Spivey met at SAGE's center in the Bronx.
Johnson's family supported her when she came out early in life, she said. But she concealed her sexual orientation in order to join the US Air Force in the 1980s, when the military forbade gay and lesbian people from serving. In the service, she said, she experienced sexual violence that became the root of a host of mental health issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder and depression that she grapples with today.

She returned to the East Coast and became a licensed social worker. She lived in Yonkers and dated around for years. But Spivey was the first person who made her want to settle down, she said. 
"Just look at her. She's smart. She's beautiful. She's educated. And she's thoughtful," she said, nodding playfully at Spivey as they sat side-by-side in a room at the SAGE center in Midtown Manhattan.

Initially, Spivey was wary of starting another relationship. But Johnson was an outsider to Spivey's insular community of black lesbians, and that made her intriguing.

"She was very intelligent, very well-spoken, and I found her interesting," she said.  "It was like learning to love and be in a relationship again." 

Their idyll was shattered when Johnson was forced to move out of her home, the couple said. Her landlord became sick, and a relative sold the home. Then Johnson lost her job, and she has been unable to find a place she can afford.

Most nights, she sleeps in her car. Occasionally, she stays with Spivey in her subsidized apartment. Under the building's income eligibility requirements, Johnson can't live there, because their combined household income would exceed the cap.

"Maybe we could get around it or sneak around, but I can't live with that kind of stress," Johnson said. "And I love Marie too much to put her in that position, to put her at risk. She can't lose what she has."

Johnson hid her homelessness from everyone except Spivey. She showered at work or the Veterans Affairs center, where she has regular medical appointments. She used what income she had for storage and vehicle upkeep to help her maintain appearances.

"When I lost my home, I lost so much of my self-esteem," Johnson said.

"There's a certain persona I want to present, and being homeless is incongruent with who I am," she said. "I'm college-educated, intelligent; this shouldn't be happening to me."

Affordable housing is scarce overall in New York City, but research indicates the need is acute among LGBT elders like Johnson and Spivey.

Affordable housing is scarce overall in New York City, but research indicates the need is acute among LGBT elders like Johnson and Spivey.

Only recently did Johnson decide to open up to friends about her situation as the possibility of LGBT-friendly housing emerged. The couple grew excited as they gathered the paperwork to apply.

But again, it seemed that income requirements would prevent them from living together. The income levels for Crotona Senior Residences range from $22,410 to $44,820 for individuals and $25m620 to $51,240 for a couple.

The wrinkle put a delay in Johnson's plans to propose to Spivey. If the two are married, their combined income would exceed the requirements. But the couple set it aside: As long as they were in the same building, that was good enough. 

Then, Johnson learned that her income from disability and Social Security benefits exceeds the requirements for both developments, making her ineligible to apply even as an individual, despite being homeless.

Latisha Millard-Bethea, SAGE's director of resident services, acknowledged the couple's situation. She sympathizes with them and noted that SAGE employees are helping Johnson find another option.
"It's fairly common for applicants to find out they don't meet the income requirements, even those in difficult financial situations," she said. "We try to work with them to help navigate the system."
Spivey wishes she could do something to help Johnson. But she has to look after herself.

"It's difficult not being able to help her because helping her would hurt me," Spivey said. "I can't do anything to mess up my medical coverage."
The couple is disappointed about the outlook yet realistic. They've weathered tougher times, similar to their peers. And they have a plan. 

Spivey will set her sights on Crotona Senior Residences while Johnson saves up for a deposit on a co-op, another type of affordable housing.

"One day, if we can get this housing thing together, we may eventually be a family," Spivey said.


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