LGBTQI+ Senior Housing – Dream Big for Tucson?

By Keith Ashley

When Senior Pride volunteers met in October 2020 for a “future visioning” session, they were invited to dream big about what services and support could be provided to Southern Arizona’s LGBTQI+ older adult community in an ideal future. One of the most popular topics to arise was affordable LGBTQI+ senior housing. The discussion ranged from a mobile home park to any kind of physical facility, but with a decided emphasis on affordable. LGBTQI housing is a reality across the country now. On their website, SAGE, (Advocacy & Services for LGBT Elders) offers resources for LGBT housing in 13 states. Arizona is not one of them … yet.

An interesting and very recent project is the Montrose Center’s new Law Harrington Senior Living Center in Houston, Texas. The center has 116 units, 60 of which had been claimed as of March 2021, before construction was complete. Eighteen seniors have already moved in and five are profiled in a detailed article from OutSmart: Houston’s LGBTQ magazine (March 3, 2021) https://www.outsmartmagazine.com/

Montrose LGBTQ Center leadership first began discussing their vision for the housing project in 2010. Just 11 years later it has become a reality. Funding to launch the $26.5 million project was secured from grants, tax credits, and community donations. Construction began in 2019.

An interesting step along the way to making this housing a reality was the Montrose Center screening of Gen Silent, a documentary exploring the struggles of six LGBTQ seniors. The film’s troubling content hit home as locals knew that two of Houston’s LGBTQ senior activists had themselves become extremely isolated in nursing facilities.

SAGE reports that 48% of older samesex couples have experienced housing discrimination and we know that isolation is an acute problem for many LGBTQI+ older adults. Seniors lacking a support network are routinely bullied and sometimes forced back into the closet as they find themselves navigating healthcare and housing systems that aren’t equipped to welcome our community’s needs.

As the nation’s largest organization serving LGBT older adults, SAGE launched a national multi-year LGBT housing initiative in 2015 and their website is overflowing with resources to help communities tackle the problem. From a housing development toolkit with three modules to lists of LGBT-friendly housing developers, SAGE has laid the groundwork for communities around the country to launch their own initiatives for LGBT elder housing. Could Tucson be next?

SOURCES:
Sage: We’re making sure there’s a place for you
Outsmart Magazine: Montrose Center Opens Texas’ first LGBTQ-Affirming Senior Living Facility
Sage Website: Housing
Next Avenue: Affordable LGBT-Friendly Elder Housing Answers Growing Need

See the May-June 2021 Edition of Senior Forum for more news. Sign up for our e-list and receive a link to the Senior Forum when each edition is printed.