Philadelphia Inquirer / TNS / AUG. 9
Suz Atlas, left, and accomplice Mary Groce within the halls of the John C. Anderson Residences in Middle Metropolis, a neighborhood in Philadelphia. The condo complicated opened in 2014 as an LGBTQ-friendly place for seniors to dwell.
After practically three years of ready and with their monetary safety waning, Suz Atlas and her accomplice, Mary Groce, lastly moved from Camden, N.J., to the John C. Anderson Residences in Philadelphia’s Middle Metropolis on Could 1, 2017.
“We couldn’t get right here quick sufficient,” mentioned Atlas, 79, a retired therapeutic massage therapist. “We don’t know the place else we might have gone.”
One of many first LGBTQ-friendly senior housing services in america, the John C. Anderson Residences — named for the trailblazing Black and homosexual Metropolis Council member who died in 1983 — has been referred to as residence by practically 100 folks because it opened in 2014. The 56-unit, six-story construction was constructed for $19.2 million on the website of a parking facility that had been owned by the town’s redevelopment company.
“There’s a necessity for inexpensive housing the place LGBTQ seniors can really feel protected and could be amongst their friends,” mentioned Charles Carroll, property supervisor of the condo complicated referred to as the JCAA.
With its lush courtyard backyard, lively group partnerships, in depth providers and 200-person waitlist, the JCAA has develop into a mannequin for LGBTQ-friendly, backed housing for seniors. Related initiatives are below dialogue, in building or open in New York, Boston, Chicago and different cities.
“The Anderson Residences had been on the forefront, and we showcase them,” mentioned Sydney Kopp-Richardson, director of the Nationwide LGBTQ+ Elder Housing Initiative. The initiative is run by SAGE, a New York nonprofit based in 1978 that has developed backed rental buildings for seniors in Brooklyn and the Bronx.
SAGE estimates that the population of LGBTQ seniors in america will attain 7 million by 2030. The oldest members of this inhabitants are extra possible than their youthful friends to have confronted discrimination in employment and housing, and had been younger adults many years earlier than same-sex relationships had been afforded the financial and different benefits of civil marriage.
To be eligible for a JCAA condo, a potential tenant should be a minimum of 62 years outdated and have a gross annual revenue of not more than $44,280, or $50,640 for a pair. Federal housing alternative vouchers — also called Part 8 — are accepted as nicely.
About 30 LGBTQ-friendly affordable-housing initiatives are open or in some stage of improvement nationwide, Kopp-Richardson mentioned.
‘Higher care of our elders’
The JCAA stands within the coronary heart of Philly’s Gayborhood, which for a lot of the twentieth century was the residential and social hub of the area’s LGBTQ group. However gentrification and redevelopment have diluted the queer presence lately.
“I used to be getting old, and I noticed my brothers and sisters getting old in Gayborhoods they helped create after which, because the neighborhoods acquired fancy, having to maneuver out,” mentioned Mark Segal, writer of the Philadelphia Homosexual Information. “I felt our group wanted to take higher care of our elders.”
Segal discovered help for his fledgling mission amongst political and group leaders in Philadelphia and different cities in Pennsylvania. At a social occasion in 2011, he had a dialog in regards to the want for inexpensive senior housing in Philly with an official of Pennrose, a Philadelphia actual property improvement and administration firm.
“On the time, there was just one different (LGBTQ-friendly senior) undertaking within the nation, and that was in L.A. and was developed in another way,” mentioned Segal, 71.
Pennrose went on to develop the undertaking in partnership with the Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld Fund, a Philly nonprofit Segal helped set up in 2005, named for the German doctor and homosexual rights advocate.
Development of the JCAA was financed with low-income housing tax credit, the cornerstone of inexpensive housing.
On the JCAA, the proudly progressive and communal spirit of the Gayborhood of the Seventies and ’80s is alive and nicely.
They embrace veterans of Stonewall, the 1969 New York Metropolis rebellion extensively seen as launching the modern homosexual rights motion.
Groce, a harpist and author, is editor in chief of the constructing’s month-to-month publication, which regularly contains tales about such historic occasions because the 1975 Metropolis Corridor confrontation between Mayor Frank Rizzo’s police division and a brand new group referred to as Dyketactics.
John S. James moved into the JCAA inside weeks of its opening. He was among the many pioneers marching for homosexual rights in entrance of Independence Corridor in 1965 — one of many first such demonstrations in america. James carried a hand-lettered signal calling for the fitting of homosexuals to “make their most contribution” to society.
“At the moment the official (federal) coverage was that any gay could be fired, and I used to be a pc programmer on the Nationwide Institutes of Well being,” mentioned James, 81, who continues to jot down and publish essays about social justice points.
Elizabeth Coffey Williams, a transgender girl and actress who appeared in movies by John Waters — together with his iconic “Pink Flamingos” — was on the verge of homelessness when she moved into the JCAA in 2014.
In 2021 she was named “Particular person of the 12 months” by Philadelphia Homosexual Information. She has been out for half a century.
“Fifty years in the past there was a really familial environment locally, and I believe that has carried forth on the JCAA,” Coffey Williams mentioned. “It by no means occurred to me to be invisible. I discovered my security residing in plain sight.”
‘A dream come true’
The larger visibility of LGBTQ folks however, misperceptions of the group as typically prosperous, and even privileged, persist. Seniors of their 70s and 80s — “the primary ‘out’ era,” Segal mentioned — got here of age many years earlier than anti-gay employment discrimination was outlawed and the U.S. Supreme Court docket acknowledged the fitting to same-sex marriage.
“As we labored with Mark and the group, we regarded on the knowledge on (LGBTQ seniors) and the demand and wish for inexpensive housing — particularly for that first ‘out’ era,” mentioned Pennrose president Timothy Henkel. The corporate is now engaged on comparable housing initiatives in Cincinnati and New Haven, Conn., plus an initiative for homeless LGBTQ youth in Denver.
Pennrose is also renovating a center faculty in Boston’s Hyde Park neighborhood because the Pryde, an LGBTQ-friendly, inexpensive senior housing complicated.
Floor was damaged in June. Then, in July, indicators across the Pryde building website had been defaced with threats of violence. The broader group responded with expressions of solidarity and help, however the incident serves as a reminder that prejudice towards LGBTQ folks endures, Henkel mentioned.
Stated Michael Quay, a retired journalist who shares an condo with Frank Potopa, his accomplice of 35 years, “Dwelling right here, being homosexual begins to fade into the background. To me, that’s actual equality.”
Groce, who’s 72, mentioned lesbians of her era “needed to play alongside and never be so apparent” about themselves within the straight world, and had been “remoted from our group” a lot of their lives.
“Earlier than we moved in, we didn’t know anybody right here, and we didn’t know what to anticipate,” Atlas mentioned.
“And after we lastly acquired there, about 10 folks had been locally room. They cheered for us and mentioned, ‘Welcome residence.’”
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Philadelphia Inquirer / TNS / AUG. 9