22 posts categorized "Housing-Advocacy"

December 21, 2015

LGBT Older Adults Town Hall or the First Time I Visited Florida

I have a confession. Until last week, I had never been to Florida. As a West Coaster for much of my life, Florida was simply too far. My inaugural visit was to Fort Lauderdale and included: eating lots of tacos; having everyone apologize to me because it was 80 degrees and overcast; attending the largest weekly gathering of LGBT older adults in the US; visiting with folks from our oldest affiliate, SAGE of South Florida and our newest, SAGE Tampa Bay; and, the main reason for my visit, serving on a panel at Town Hall meeting focused on LGBT older adults. I was proud to join a distinguished panel and a sizable crowd of LGBT and allied people for this important conversation. Moderated by the knowledgeable and passionate Hannah Willard, Policy and Outreach Coordinator for Equality Florida, the panel included David Jobin, President/Chief Executive Officer, Our Fund; Elizabeth Schwartz, Esq., Principal, Elizabeth F. Schwartz Attorneys and Mediators; and Stephanie Schneider, Esq., Board Certified Elder Law Attorney, Law Office of Stephanie L. Schneider, P.A.

In partnership with AARP Florida, Equality Florida, Our Fund and SAGE, the Town Hall was held at the Pride Center at Equality Park in the Wilton Manors neighborhood. Just north of downtown Fort Lauderdale, Wilton Manors is described by USA today as, “the epicenter of gay life in all of South Florida.” This sounds a little hyperbolic but the census data lines right up. “The 2012 U.S. Census revealed which cities have the highest concentration of same-sex couple households (among cities with a population of 65,000 or above). The surprising frontrunner? Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where same-sex couples make up a whopping 2.8 percent of total households.” Another stat, which will surprise no one, is that 19.1% of Floridans are over 65.

Whenever I’m lucky enough to be around lots and lots of LGBT people, I experience a familiar duality. I’m exhilarated by the density of people like me; I feel safe; I feel a kind of calm and warmth and, simultaneously, I’m saddened by the reality that even in a place like Wilton Manors—where I can enjoy the sight of two older women walking hand-in-hand, gray heads bent towards each other, strolling slowly across a parking lot—even in this epicenter of gay life, LGBT people, including our elders, do not have full equality.

“AARP knows that for too long, LGBT elders have faced challenges as they navigate life that others do not.  In order to best fight for and equip each individual to live their best life as they age, it’s imperative for us to know what issues this community is facing and how we can collaborate to address them.”  Jeff Johnson, State Director, AARP Florida

This concentration of LGBT elders warrants our attention and our action. Stratton Pollitzer, Deputy Director of Equality Florida, clarifies why. “LGBT elders encounter the same challenges as other seniors: declining health, diminished income, ageism, the loss of family and friends. But, as so many know first hand, LGBT elders often must deal with ignorance and discrimination in the services available to them. That makes them among the most invisible, stigmatized, underserved and at-risk populations in the country.” This Town Hall, is the first of two community dialogues in Florida to learn how aging service providers and LGBT organizations in Florida are working to address these vast concerns and to identify what else needs to be done to assure that LGBT older adults in Florida enjoy a high quality of life free from discrimination. The second will be on Tuesday, Feb. 23, at the Metro Wellness Community Center, home of SAGE Tampa Bay.

David highlighted a new South Florida initiative by Our Fund and SAGE called Protecting Our Elders (POE). Working with local LGBT organizations, POE seeks to change the landscape and ensure that any services to or care required by an LGBT elder happens in a welcoming and discrimination-free environment. Stephanie and Elizabeth (who serves on SAGE’s board of directors) addressed legal and financial issues and I shared market research from our recent report, Out & Visible: The Experiences and Attitudes of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Older Adults, Ages 45-75. From the quality of the suggestions, observations and questions from the audience, it seems to me that the mix of informed LGBT older adults, engaged organizations from the aging sector like AARP Florida, committed funders like Our Fund, and hard-working LGBT organizations like Equality Florida are exactly what’s needed in this fight. 

By: Serena Worthington, Director of National Field Initiatives
Follow her on Twitter at @SerenaWorthy

 

March 10, 2015

Historic Day for LGBT Elders? We’ll see!

Written by Barbara Satin, Assistant Faith Work Director, National LGBTQ Task Force, this post was originally featured on The National LGBTQ Task Force blog on March 3, 2015.

Walking into the Eisenhower Office Building in the White House complex on February 10, I realized that I was crossing what has the potential to be a historic threshold for the LGBT community – I was entering a full day meeting with Obama administration officials around the issue of LGBT aging and, more specifically, affordable housing for LGBT elders.

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Barbara Satin, Assistant Faith Work Director, National LGBTQ Task Force

Thanks to the work and advocacy of SAGE and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the Administration was embarking on a conversation that should have happened years ago but now has taken on more of a crisis-like tone.

Think about it: today in the U.S. there are four affordable rental housing projects focused on LGBT elders – with a total of 285 units to fill that role.

Now reflect on the reality that there are around 2 million LGBT folks who are 65 and older – our elders – and that number is expected to reach 3 million by 2030 – only 15 years from now.

So where are these thousands – probably hundreds of thousands – of LGBT elders going to find safe, secure, respectful and affordable rentals if we only have less than 300 units now spread across the country?

There are 104 units in LA at Triangle Square, the first affordable rental project for LGBT elders which opened in 2007. Then in September 2013 Minneapolis joined in with its 46 units at Spirit on Lake, followed by 56 units in early 2014 at the John Anderson Apartments in Philadelphia and 79 apartments at the Town Hall development in Chicago that opened later in 2014. And, yes, there are more projects on the drawing boards but even these, if successfully developed won’t make a dent in the need.

That’s the context that surrounded the White House Conference on LGBT Elder Housing that took place on February 10, 2015.

Five panels, filled with some of the most knowledgeable people about aging issues, elder housing and public policy, covered the needs, options, resources, legal rights and policy changes required to meet the housing requirements of LGBT seniors .

The audience was made up of a who’s who of LGBT aging activists and allies as well as senior management of major government departments that deal with housing development and senior care issues.

The panel presentations were thorough and insistent while questions and comments were thoughtful and probing.

Keynote speaker for the gathering was Jennifer Ho, Senior Advisor on Housing and Services for the Department of Housing and Urban Development who brought a supportive message around commitment to LGBT elders but also tempered with the reality of a lack of both resources and Congressional support.

A major feature of the day was a listening session where participants in the conference were able to pose questions and concerns to representatives of the Administration, including Kathy Greenlee, Assistant Secretary for Aging with the Department of Health and Human Services, and Nora Super, Executive Director of the White House Conference on Aging.

Audience comments were far ranging, passionate and covered a variety of needs and concerns for LGBT elders.

Takeaways from the Affordable Elder Housing Conference include the already established fact that there is a growing and critical need for housing that is safe, respectful and affordable for LGBT seniors plus the concomitant reality that given the lack of financial resources we are not going to be able to build our way out of the issue.

But, as one of the panelists proclaimed, we can effectively respond to the challenge with a combination of approaches including new affordable housing development, appropriate training for senior care providers and more intensive research around the needs and concerns of LGBT elders.

The White House Conference was a start of comprehensive conversations with government agencies and entities that can make these approaches of development, training and research work across the nation. We will be watching, waiting and witnessing to see if it turns out to be a historic beginning for a safe, secure, affordable housing future for our LGBT elders.

February 18, 2015

Taking our Housing Initiative to The White House

As the number of Americans age 65 and older surges over the next few decades, the number of LGBT older adults is estimated to double to 3 million by 2030. By this year – 2015 – one in two individuals who are HIV positive in this country will be over age 50.  Many struggle to find welcoming and affordable housing. 

On Tuesday, February 10, 2015, the White House, SAGE, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) hosted the National LGBT Elder Housing Summit.

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(L-R) Kathy Greenlee, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Aging, Michael Adams, Executive Director, SAGE and Nora Super, Executive Director of the White House Conference on Aging

We looked at the National LGBT Elder Housing Summit as a unique opportunity for the White House to bring together the LGBT community and the aging network to discuss the challenges communities across the country have faced in providing affordable, welcoming, and supportive housing to LGBT older adults and older adults with HIV.  The summit also provided an opportunity to hear from panelists from Washington and across the nation to see how they have successfully begun to meet those challenges.  And together, with an eye towards the future, we explored how federal housing policy and those at the state and local level can shape how we address these challenges in the years to come.

The day included a number of panels, with participation by experts from across the country, including panels entitled:

  • Overview of the Housing Needs of LGBT Elders and the Importance of Training Providers
  • Building Housing - LGBT Older Adult Community Housing
  • Educating Consumers on the Legal Landscape Regarding Housing Rights for LGBT Older Adults. How to Find—and Advocate for—LGBT-Friendly Housing in all its Forms
  • Expanding Services - Best Practices in Services and Programs that Support LGBT Older People with their Housing Challenges
  • Changing Policy – Creating Housing, Financial Security, and an Inclusive Safety Net

We had the pleasure of hearing Jennifer Ho, Senior Advisor on Housing and Services, US Department of Housing and Urban Development, deliver a keynote address on HUD’s interest in providing welcoming and affordable housing.

And we had the opportunity to host a White House Conference on Aging Listening Session, conducted by Kathy Greenlee, Administrator of the Administration for Community Living and Assistant Secretary for Aging, and Nora Super, Executive Director, White House Conference on Aging.  LGBT older adults and advocates shared their vision of a successful White House Conference on Aging directly with Administrator Greenlee and Executive Director Super.

In sum, the day provided a unique opportunity for advocates to share their thoughts with policy makers, and for policy makers to share their latest thoughts with individuals both personally and professionally invested in improving the housing security of LGBT older adults.

February 6, 2015

The Official Launch of Our National Housing Initiative

Our new national LGBT older adult housing initiative is up and running! On February third we welcomed housing leaders from across the country for a panel discussion launching a five-part strategy to alleviate the housing crisis impacting LGBT older people throughout the U.S. An album of images from the event is online here

Speakers included marriage equality icon and former SAGE board member Edie Windsor, who recalled working on housing issues as early as the 1980's, as well as Jennifer Ho, Senior Advisor for Housing and Services at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Ho affirmed HUD’s support for the effort,  stating that “the LGBT community's needs must be front and center” as HUD expands senior housing across the country.

The panel also included Cheryl Gladstone of Enterprise Community Partners; Melissa Rothstein of the Equal Rights Center; David Cleghorn of HELP USA;  Kathleen Sullivan of the Los Angeles LGBT Center and Sherrill Wayland of SAGE Metro St. Louis. 

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Six panelists addressed the crowd.

 

The panel's geographic diversity mirrored the national scope of the initiative, which offers five key strategies:

  • Building LGBT elder housing and sharing SAGE’s expertise from such projects
  • Training existing housing facilities to provide housing in an LGBT-welcoming, non-discriminatory manner
  • Changing public policies to clear the way for more LGBT elder housing and bar housing discrimination against LGBT older people
  • Educating LGBT older people in how to look for LGBT-friendly housing and how to exercise their rights
  • Expanding LGBT-friendly services available in housing sites across the country. 

We hope you'll sign up for updates from SAGE online here and stay in touch as this critical initiative moves forward! 

November 6, 2014

People at Out & Equal are talking about Out & Visible!

People are talking about Out & Visible! Our new study of the fears, beliefs, behaviors and aspirations of LGBT older adults offers important--and startling--statistics that have long been missing from our conversations about LGBT aging. At the Out & Equal conference in San Francisco yesterday, a panel of representatives from major financial and consumer companies weighed in on how the report can help them better serve our communities. We're excited to share the findings of this study with new audiences across the country, and to hear their responses.

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For example, Out & Visible found that LGBT older people are far more concerned than non-LGBT older people about their financial security and retirement. 42% of LGBT older people are very or extremely concerned that they'll outlive their retirement savings, as compared to 25% of non-LGBT people.  A panelist from Prudential, Josh Stoffregen, remarked that "Being able to better understand the unique needs and challenges the older LGBT population is facing helps us as we continue to learn more about all aspects of our community.  We're pleased that SAGE is shedding light on this important topic."

Despite our years of recent progress, LGBT people still struggle with disproportionate barriers to health and happiness. Out & Visible provides many insights which reveal the extent of these issues and the work that's still necessary to create longer, healthier lives for LGBT older adults.

--Posted by Kira Garcia

October 8, 2014

New National Study: Five Things You Should Know About Aging and LGBT People

Today’s post is from Robert Espinoza, Senior Director for Public Policy and Communications at SAGE. It was originally featured on The Huffington Post. Follow Robert on Twitter.

Much has been written about the growing number of older people in this country (as the baby boom generation rapidly ages), as well as the incremental shift in favorable policies and attitudes toward certain segments of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) population. However, less public attention has been placed on the intersection of these two trends: how LGBT people experience aging, beginning in midlife all the way through later life.

BLOGCovernew research reportOut and Visible: The Experiences and Attitudes of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Older Adults, Ages 45-76—sheds new light on these issues. Based on a 2014 nationally representative study of more than 1,800 LGBT people and more than 500 non-LGBT people, Out and Visible extensively describes how LGBT people feel and experience areas such as healthcare, finance and retirement, support systems, housing and more. The study was commissioned bySAGE and led by Harris Poll.

Here are five things this new study reveals about LGBT older people’s experiences with aging.

1. LGBT older people are concerned about their financial futures and feeling that they need to work much further into later life.  Moreover, many LGBT older people rely largely on their own knowledge and education for retirement planning.

According to this new study, 42 percent of LGBT older people are very or extremely concerned that they will outlive the money they have saved for retirement, as compared to 25 percent of non-LGBT people; and half of all single LGBT older believe they will need to work well beyond retirement age. These findings speak to the importance of public policies that protect and support employment among LGBT people, as well as the critical role that financial planning has on one’s retirement outlook (as two solutions). Additionally, single LGBT people have different needs than partnered LGBT people that merit specific attention (among other characteristics explored in this study).

2. LGBT older people report fearing that if their sexual orientations and gender identities become known by healthcare or long-term care providers, as two examples, they will experience judgment, discrimination and inferior care.

Out and Visible notes that 43 percent of single LGBT older people and 40 percent of LGBT older people age 60 and older say their healthcare providers don't know about their sexual orientations. Two-thirds (65 percent) of transgender older adults fear that they will experience limited access to healthcare as they age. Prior research has documented significant health disparities among LGBT older people, spurred by a combination of poor healthcare access and the stressors of stigma and discrimination. In contrast, candid communication between LGBT people and their providers could play a role in improving their quality of care and ultimately, their overall health and well-being.

3. The support networks of LGBT older people are shrinking, and the housing outlook for many LGBT older people isn't optimistic either.

This new study reveals that 40 percent of LGBT older people report that their support networks have become smaller over time, as compared to 27 percent of non-LGBT people. Additionally, one in eight (13%) LGBT people and one in four (25%) transgender people say they have been discriminated against when searching for housing on the basis of their sexual orientations and gender identities, respectively. Secure housing and a supportive network of friends are essential to all people as they age, especially in preventing poverty and social isolation—yet this study shows that LGBT people might be compromised in this regard.

4. LGBT people are diverse and not a monolith—and this study reveals distinct differences that are relevant to providers, government and the broader private sector.

Two notable examples from this study. According to this study, African American LGBT older people are three times as likely as White or Hispanic LGBT older people to say that people from their churches or faith are part of their support systems. Moreover, transgender older people tend to be more worried about being a burden to their loved ones (48% vs. 32%), and knowing where they will live as they grow older (42% vs. 27%) than their cisgender (non-transgender) peers. The study shows additional differences across income, age, relationship status and more.

5. LGBT older people aspire to take on many of the same activities as their non-LGBT peers—yet this study shows that LGBT people are more likely to want to serve as mentors and many fear what might transpire with these options if their sexual orientations and gender identities become known.

According to the study, LGBT and non-LGBT older people cite similar interests for their retirement years: taking part in leisure activities, travel, volunteering, starting a hobby, working part-time and joining social groups. However, key differences also emerged. According to the study, LGBT older people are twice as likely as non-LGBT older people to envision themselves mentoring others (14% vs. 7%). Also, one in four (27%) LGBT older people and one in three (33%) transgender older people feels that work or volunteer activities will not be open to him/her if others know about his/her sexual orientation and gender identity, respectively. 

This study builds on a growing body of research over the last few years that has increasingly, though insufficiently, studied aging concerns among LGBT older people.The report also offers a host of recommendations for leaders in the public and private sectors, most of which are largely centered on the importance of becoming more responsive to the diversity of LGBT people as they age. We’re all aging, regardless of where we fall on the age spectrum, and we deserve to age into systems that enrich our lives, not hinder them.  In this sense, we can all play a role in building a more equitable society.

September 2, 2014

Finding Pride and Home: A Look at Housing for Older LGBT Adults

DavesingletonAuthor Dave Singleton doesn't want one more older LGBT adult to face rejection and discrimination at work or home. But rejection and discrimination are still much too prevalent for many LGBT seniors in need of assisted living. Finding Pride and Home: A Look at Housing for Older LGBT Adults illustrates the growing need for LGBT housing options. Read the original article here.

Moving to an assisted living home should never mean stepping back into a closet.

That seems obvious to those of us living out and proud lives in post-Stonewall Riots America. But fears of rejection and of being ostracized are ever-present realities for many seniors in -- or considering moving to -- shared senior living communities.

One Man's Fear

I saw the fear firsthand when I volunteered at a senior living community in Washington, D.C., a few years ago. Steven was 71 then, with round John Denver glasses, longish silver hair, and an agile mind, but he was dealing with the aftermath of two strokes, which left him unable to walk and in a wheelchair. I said hello and, after a few minutes of small talk, he told me he was gay and uncomfortable in what he thought was a homophobic environment.

"I lived the last 25 years of my life as an openly gay man in Dupont Circle," he said. "Then I came here this year because there was nowhere else to go, and I'm scared to be myself. Gay people are either invisible to, or unwanted by, the people here. So I stay quiet."

I asked the management if they specifically trained the staff to support LGBT residents, and the director nodded in somber admission of the problem. "We're working on it," she said.

The Rise of LGBT Senior Housing Options: A Clear Need

She's not the only one "working on it."

LGBT senior housing options have gained steam in the last decade, led by the rise of older LGBT baby boomers.

"I get calls from LGBT seniors who ask, 'Where can I go where I know I will be safe and treated fairly?" says Chris McLellan, writer and coordinator of Senior Services for SunServe Social Servicesin Broward County, Florida, which serves the LGBT-dense population of Fort Lauderdale.

Of course, this forward-thinking movement to create LGBT-friendly retirement communities, with built-in acceptance and a supportive environment, makes sense. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force estimates 3 million LGBT elders live in the United States, and that number will double by 2030.

"There is a real need for this housing," Michael Adams, executive director of SAGE (Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Elders), told the New York Times recently. The need isn't just based on numbers. He was commenting on the results of a recent study in which the Equal Rights Center in Washington enlisted testers in ten states to pose as either gay or straight couples and make phone calls to senior living facilities. In almost half of the cases, the same-sex couples faced discrimination from housing agents, who didn't mention the vacant units presented to straight couples.

Once you're actually living in a home, it's often the little things that are troubling. "For example, someone sits down at dinner at a typical home and asks you on the spot about your wife and kids," says Steve Krege, COO of Northstar Senior Living, which manages the LGBT-focused Stonewall Gardens in Palm Springs, California, set to open in September 2014. "Do I tell the truth or not? Will they think differently of me? You don't want to put someone in that situation, especially when the majority of 70- to 80-year-old residents may still feel the pull of the closet."

 

Continue reading "Finding Pride and Home: A Look at Housing for Older LGBT Adults" »

April 15, 2014

LGBT Older Adult Housing – A Critical Need

Today's post is from Hilary Meyer, SAGE's Director of National Programs and Director of the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging.

Horizon

LGBT older adults deserve secure, stable and affordable housing, yet often face harassment and intimidation in their homes and in long-term care settings from aging professionals and other residents. This means that many people live in physically and emotionally unhealthy environments that compromise the quality of their lives.

SAGE’s National Resource Center on LGBT Aging (NRC) is running a social media campaign this week to draw attention to this critical issue. Whether you are an older adults yourself, an aging provider looking for more information or an LGBT organization looking for more information on housing needs, we have you covered with webinars, articles, educational videos, publications and more!

A few highlights from our website include:

Safe, inclusive and affordable housing is a key to aging successfully and happily. We urge LGBT people and their allies to education themselves on all aspects of this important topic.

April 7, 2014

Issues Facing LGBT Older Adults and Housing

3141493As our LGBT population ages, research illustrates that the right to safe and affordable housing is not a guarantee. On February26, 2014, the Equal Rights Center (ERC), in partnership with SAGE, released the results of a 10-state testing-based investigation documenting differential treatment against older same-sex couples seeking housing in senior living facilities. The report, Opening Doors: An Investigation of Barriers to Senior Housing for Same-Sex Couples, can be read here. Among other findings, the tests showed that 48% of same-sex couples experienced at least one form of adverse differential treatment when inquiring about senior housing as compared to their heterosexual counterparts.

The report showed the following from the investigation:

  • Housing agents providing information about additional units being available to the tester from an opposite-sex couple;
  • Housing agents advising the tester from the same-sex couple about additional fees, costs, and/or a more extensive application process than were disclosed to the heterosexual tester;
  • Housing agents providing information about additional amenities to the testers from the opposite sex couple that were not mentioned to the tester from the same sex couple; and
  • Housing agents offering "specials" and discounts to the tester from the same-sex couple that were not offered to the tester from the opposite sex couple.

These results highlight the need for further research to provide additional data on housing discrimination against older LGBT adults and for policy remedies that improve housing options for LGBT older adults, no matter where they live. Read our full press release here.

In addition to this report, more LGBT housing news hit the wires, including a thoughtful piece from SAGE Senior Director of Public Policy & Communications Robert Espinoza on the right to housing and aging discrimination in the LGBT community via The Huffington Post. In addition, the New York Times released an article on the need for LGBT-specific senior housing featuring SAGE Executive Director Michael Adams. Serena Worthington, SAGE's director of community advocacy & capacity-building, is quoted in a recent piece from the BBC on thegrowth of gay retirement homes. And SAGE is featured in MSNBC's piece on LGBT housing, which focuses on the opening of the John C. Anderson Apartments in Philadelphia. 

 

July 26, 2013

The Personal is Political: Eleanor’s Story

In honor of the 23rd Anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, SAGE is pleased to share Eleanor Smith's story. Eleanor is the founder of Concrete Change, a disability rights organization in Decatur, GA. This is an excerpt of a speech she gave at SAGE’s LGBT Elder Institute, held in Atlanta, on January 24, 2013. Visit SAGE Story to listen to her full presentation.
 

Eleanor
Eleanor Smith
(image from Measure up the North

At my one of my first disability rights actions, in Washington DC about 30 years ago, as I was marching along in my wheelchair with a few hundred  others, a fellow marcher pulled up beside me in his power wheelchair and said, “Are you one of those old time dykes?”  I laughed and answered affirmatively. He could probably tell by the flannel shirt.  Later I got to know Eric better, and I learned from him that he was a female to male trans person. What a lot of guts he was showing back then in the 1980s to be a severely mobility-impaired person who also changed his gender. Back then Eric and I were young people with disabilities. Now we’re old people with disabilities. Today I’m going to talk about the intersection of aging and disability and the wisdom of older gays and people with disabilities working more closely together.

 

I have noticed how old people and their organizations and younger disabled people and their organizations often work quite separately from each other, and are unaware of each others’ work.  This is the case even though many of the same issues affect both groups.

We have been taught over the years to realize that all oppressions operate in similar ways. Ageism and ableism are even more closely intertwined that most oppressions. For instance, both older people and disabled people are often devalued because our bodies or minds deviate from the norm by being—or perceived as being—weaker and less functional.   And the physical attributes of both old people and people with disabilities of all ages are considered by many to be ugly, or grotesque. So we all need to be liberated to see old or disabled bodies as beautiful in their own way.

Continue reading "The Personal is Political: Eleanor’s Story " »