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3 posts from July 2016

July 13, 2016

SAGE and Partners Launching LGBT Elder Housing in NYC

This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post Blog on July 11, 2016. Read the original post here.

By Michael Adams

5783cfdd1a00002400dd0aa2Crotona (left) and Ingersoll (right) Senior Residences

Recently, SAGE closed out New York City’s Pride month with the historic announcement that, after many years of effort, we have sealed deals for the Big Apple’s first two LGBT-friendly senior housing developments.  The news, which culminates decades of effort by LGBT elder advocates, was rolled out at a June 30 press conference where SAGE was joined by our partner developers, elected officials and a passionate crowd of elders from Brooklyn and the Bronx, where the two new housing communities will be built.     

The two newly-announced LGBT-welcoming housing developments – Ingersoll Senior Residences in Brooklyn and Crotona Senior Residences in the Bronx ― are a first for New York City.  But they build on similar affordable LGBT elder housing models in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago and Minneapolis. In each of these projects (and others in development across the country), LGBT communities and our allies are responding to the fact that LGBT older people often face unique challenges in finding welcoming and affordable housing. A 2014 report by the Equal Rights Center, with support from SAGE, found that 48% of LGBT older people applying for senior housing as part of a national test were subjected to discrimination.   This high level of discrimination is outrageous and unacceptable; moreover, it makes it extremely difficult for LGBT older people to find appropriate housing as they age.  

As SAGE pointed out when we rolled out our National LGBT Elder Housing Initiative last year, we can’t just build our way out of this crisis.  Because we will never be able to build enough developments like Ingersoll and Crotona, SAGE is also focused on policy reform and training to ensure that every senior housing community in the country is LGBT-friendly.  Nonetheless, building model LGBT-friendly senior housing can play an important role.  Collectively, the two new housing developments will provide 227 affordable apartments and will offer comprehensive, LGBT-culturally competent services to building residents and elders in the surrounding community.

5783d1ba1b00001a00f6d3a6I stand with NYC Councilmember Ritchie Torres and SAGE participants as we announce the new NYC housing developments. Image courtesy NYCHA.

Located in Ft. Greene, Brooklyn, the 145-unit Ingersoll Senior Residences will be the nation’s largest LGBT-welcoming elder housing community to date. Ingersoll is a collaboration of SAGE and BFC Partners, one of New York City’s leading affordable housing developers. BFC, which has developed affordable and market-rate housing in New York City for more than 30 years, will own and manage the property; SAGE is working with BFC on designing an LGBT-friendly environment and will operate a full-fledged LGBT-welcoming senior center on the ground floor.

Crotona Senior Residences is a collaboration of SAGE and HELP USA, a national leader in developing housing and services for vulnerable populations.  The 82-unit Crotona development, which will be jointly owned by HELP USA and SAGE, will feature a unique array of services and opportunities for residents, including roof-top gardening.  The new development is located directly across the street from Crotona Park, a beautiful 127 acre public park that is a vibrant local gathering spot and is known for its multi-faceted senior programming.   

Onsite SAGE Centers at both locations will be modeled after SAGE’s highly successful Innovative Senior Centers located in Chelsea, Harlem, the Bronx, Staten Island (in partnership with the Pride Center of Staten Island), and Brooklyn (in partnership with GRIOT Circle). The SAGE Centers at Ingersoll and Crotona will feature a cyber-café, hot meals program, and a weekly calendar of arts & culture and health & wellness activities that reflect the interests of building residents and community members. 

The Ingersoll and Crotona Senior Residences are being built at a time of growing recognition that the acute housing needs of LGBT elders must be addressed.  In his Pride Month Proclamation last month, President Obama declared that “my Administration is striving to better understand the needs of LGBT adults and to provide affordable, welcoming, and supportive housing to aging LGBT Americans.”  In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s 10-Year Housing Plan specifically calls on developers to work with service providers to build LGBT-friendly senior housing.

The Ingersoll and Crotona developments are reflective of SAGE’s broader commitment to advance our work on behalf of LGBT elders through intersectional strategies that recognize that social justice problems are interconnected and that build solutions by connecting the dots.  Thus, we are excited that Ingersoll and Crotona isn’t just providing LGBT-friendly elder housing, but also is intentionally integrated into efforts to address New York City’s larger affordable housing crisis.  The Ingersoll and Crotona residences are part and parcel of Mayor de Blasio’s ambitious initiative to create and preserve 200,000 affordable housing units.  The Ingersoll development is making an additional contribution – proceeds from the project will be used to upgrade existing public housing managed by the New York City Housing Authority.

Projects like these – which simultaneously address the acute housing needs of LGBT older people while helping to advance equity for all city residents struggling to find decent housing – can only come about through strong community partnerships.  As New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) Chair and CEO Shola Olatoye has pointed out, “The partnership between the City, BFC, and SAGE to expand affordable housing opportunities and services at Ingersoll is a powerful example of how we’re creating more connected communities through NextGeneration NYCHA.” In a similar vein, GRIOT Circle Executive Director Jose Albino has declared that “[w]e stand shoulder to shoulder with [SAGE] in ensuring that these groundbreaking LGBTQ affirmative housing opportunities are inclusive and representative of the individuals who live in the communities where they will be located.”

At a time when the social ills plaguing our country are so vividly on display, local community change and development efforts like Ingersoll and Crotona – through their emphasis on collaboration, connected communities, and cross-cutting strategies – offer powerful rays of hope for social progress.  Recognizing that our LGBT elder pioneers have paved the way for so much progress toward justice and equality in recent decades, it seems only appropriate that pioneering LGBT-friendly senior housing might offer some lessons on how to re-connect the dots.

Note: If you’re interested in learning more about these developments and SAGE’s National LGBT Elder Housing Initiative, we invite you to subscribe for regular updates at sageusa.org/nychousing.

July 7, 2016

Why We Fight

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2015 issue of SAGEMatters.

The Supreme Court validated the relationships of LGBT people across the nation in 2015 when it handed down its decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. Plaintiff Jim Obergefell took the time to speak with us about his experience in this history-making moment.

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 3.22.47 PM
Image: Emma Parker Photography


SAGE: How did you feel at the moment the Supreme Court decision came down? Can you describe it?

Jim Obergefell: When Justice Kennedy read our case number, I grabbed the hands of friends sitting on either side of me and listened intently. The first few sentences were a roller coaster of emotions, as I thought “we won”—followed closely by doubt. When it became clear that we had indeed won, I burst into tears and cried throughout the rest of his decision. I felt a mixture of sadness, joy, and satisfaction. Sadness, of course, because John wasn’t there to experience the win with me. It was impossible not to feel joy at that moment! Here was the highest court in the land saying that John and I—and couples like us—exist and are just as valid as any other couple. I also had a sense of satisfaction because I’d lived up to my promises to love, honor and protect John. It was a bittersweet day, but definitely more sweet than bitter.

SAGE: Caring for a terminally-ill partner requires profound physical and emotional strength. You’ve said that John gave you “the strength to do this.” How did family, friends and community reinforce that strength?

JO: I know I had moments when I was completely exhausted, emotionally and physically, but I always thought back to John and the fact that I was fighting for him, our marriage, and people across the country. I found that no matter how busy I was, I was energized by meeting people, talking about John, and speaking out for equality. My family and friends worried about me, but they understood how important it was, and they could also see how passionate I was about what I was doing. They also kept me grounded and sane by checking in with me and, more importantly, making time for me whenever I was home in Cincinnati. It’s impossible not to be energized when strangers stop me to say thank you, tell me stories, or share why my fight mattered to them.

SAGE: In winning a battle for you and John, you won something for all of us. Have you met any older—“SAGE age”—couples who’ve tied the knot since this summer’s Supreme Court victory? How have they inspired you?

JO: I have, and quite a few! I remember how frequently people were surprised by how long John and I were together, so I’ve loved meeting couples who have been together as long or longer. There’s been such a look of joy and contentment on their faces, and I can’t imagine a better thank you. I know how meaningful getting married was for John and me after twenty years together, so I understand a bit of how they feel. Every time a couple tells me they’ve finally married after being together for so long—or that their marriage is now recognized in all 50 states—I’m humbled to be part of that.

SAGE: In remarks following the decision, you shared your hope that the ruling would decrease LGBT stigma and discrimination. You also acknowledged the crisis in Charleston, saying we must continue to fight as “progress for some is not progress for all.” What issues do you hope to address in the coming year?

JO: Our country still hasn’t lived up to the promise of equality that’s part of our shared American identity, and my experience fighting for marriage equality has inspired me to continue being involved until we do. I’ll be working toward passage of the Equality Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity in federal non-discrimination protections. I’ll continue to speak out on behalf of our transgender brothers and sisters and lend my time and energy toward gaining much-needed protections for them. I also plan to become more involved with fighting homelessness among LGBTQ youth.

Read about Jim Obergefell and other LGBT trailblazers in the Fall 2015 issue of SAGEMatters. Download our Talk Before You Walk toolkit and infographics to learn how marriage equality affects your finances. Sign up for monthly email updates at sageusa.org/subscribe.

July 1, 2016

What Affordable/Accessible Housing Options Exist for Diverse Elders?

Did you miss SAGE's June 30 Housing Press Conference? Watch the Facebook Live Stream recording and see photos from the event on Flickr.

This post originally appeared on the Diverse Elders Coalition blog on June 1, 2016. Read the original post here.

By Angie Boddie

America’s older population is in the midst of unprecedented growth. As the baby boomer generation continues to experience increased longevity, the 50 and over population is projected to increase about 20 percent by 2030 or to about 132 million people. In just 15 years, one in five people will be at least age 65. Ensuring that this demographic continues to experience affordable and accessible housing that offers a sense of community as well as other services and supports that enables them to remain active and productive members of society has taken on a new urgency not only for individuals and their families, but also for the nation as a whole.

For some people, staying in their current homes works. For others, there may come a time when everyone agrees that a different housing option is needed. For those individuals living with chronic conditions and/or disabilities, the availability of housing with supports and services they need determines the quality and cost of long-term care—particularly the portion paid with public funds. Every day, seniors and their caregivers ask questions such as “What if mom or dad can’t go home?” or “What are my housing options?”

Thankfully, today society offers seniors a host of choices and options with regard to alternative housing.  Options include: Age-Restricted Communities; Active-Adult Communities; Senior Apartments; Cohousing; Home with Help (HWH); Assisted-Living Facilities (ALF); Continuing-Care Retirement Communities (CCRC); Board and Care Homes; and Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNF).

  • Age-Restricted Communities. Age-Restricted Communities also known as “active adult” or “[age] 55+” communities cater to older adults who have a common preference to live among their peers. Age-Restricted Communities usually offer a mix of this housing type—single-family homes, townhomes, or apartments that are often connected by sidewalks or paths. Age Restricted Communities tend to focus on an active lifestyle, and many communities have well-equipped clubhouses and other amenities, such as tennis courts, gardening, and other community-based activities.
  • Active-Adult Communities. Active-Adult Communities tend to be more suitable for older adults who are healthy, independent, and interested in the social benefits of living among peers. It should be noted that many age-restricted communities don’t allow multigenerational living arrangements, including children and grandchildren.
  • Senior Apartments. Senior Apartments are age-restricted apartments that are typically available to people age 55 and older. While senior apartments are luxury apartments with high price tags, a lot of senior apartments are priced at market rates or below. Some are even built specifically for low-income people. Because the units are constructed for older adults, they are often designed to be accessible and include transportation services. 
  • Cohousing. “Cohousing” designates “a type of ‘intentional neighborhood’ in which residents actively participate in the design and operation of the community.” Residents privately own their homes and do not pool their incomes, but there are common facilities for daily use. Decisions are made cooperatively, rather than by top-down hierarchy or majority-rules voting. Cohousing communities are vibrant places where there are many opportunities for multigenerational interactions and social connections. In elder or senior cohousing communities, the “intentional community” is only for older people. Homes and facilities are designed for aging in place, and residents often share the cost of health aides or an on-site health-care provider.
  • Home with Help (HWH). Home with Help assistance is available to an individual when it has been deemed that it is unsafe for that person to live at home alone.  HWH services are geared towards providing care in the home.  This may include individuals continuing to live in their home environment with 24 hour care.  It also may include in the form of family caregivers, private paid caregivers, transportation services, and meal options such as meals on wheels.  Hiring private caregivers is an out-of pocket expense; therefore one must consider the financial aspect associated with in-home care.
  • Assisted-Living Facility. Assisted-living facilities (ALFs) are housing communities for those individuals who may require minimal assistance with their activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, eating, housekeeping, shopping, and medication management, but they want to live as independently as possible.  Residents living in this facility keep the sense of “home”, by having their own apartment.  Medicare does not cover the cost of assisted-living facilities, but in some states, Medicaid may assist with funding.  
  • Continuing-Care retirement Communities (CCRC). Continuing-Care Retirement Communities are a combination of an assisted-living facility that is connected with an independent living residence and a nursing.  Residents in this setting are able to take advantage of a variety of services, including meals, transportation, housekeeping, laundry, health monitoring, and social activities.  Another advantage about living in a CCRC is that residents will not have to relocate to a new community as their level of care may increase.  Fees often increase as services increase. A CCRC offers many different contract options including, extensive, modified, and fee-for-service. The contracts differ in the amount according to the services offered. To determine which option is best for your loved ones, visit the Continuing Care Accreditation Commission.
  • Board and Care Homes. Board and Care Homes are also known as a residential care facility or group home for older adults.  They are often very small and provide assistance with meals and basic Activities of Daily living (ADL’s).   A board and care home offers seniors a “home” atmosphere.  Often board and care homes are located in single-family homes.  Government funding as well as SSI can sometimes cover the costs of such facilities.
  • Skilled Nursing Facilities. Skilled Nursing Facilities provide care to those who need 24 hour care after suffering from an illness, injury, or functional disability; some nursing homes offer specialty services geared towards specific medical conditions.  Nursing homes provide many skilled services including occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, and respiratory therapy.  Typically, individuals stay for a short period of time to receive services to increase independence to return home.  Skilled nursing facilities are often covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance carries.

Finding the appropriate senior housing can be a difficult and tedious process for everyone. Whenever possible, involving the whole family can help everyone maintain dignity and power of choice. For additional information on senior housing, visit:

The National Caucus and Center on Black Aging, Inc., Housing Management Corporation: www.ncbahmc.com

SeniorResource.com: http://www.seniorresource.com/house.htm

National Clearinghouse for Long-Term Care Information: http://www.longtermcare.gov/LTC/main_Site/index.aspx

Housing and Urban Development: http://www.hud.gov/groups/seniors.cfm

AARP: http://www.aarp.org/families/housing_choices

Continuing Care Accreditation Commission: http://www.carf.org

Medicare: www.medicare.gov

Angie Boddie is the Director of Health Programs at theNational Caucus and Center on Black Aging, Inc. Angie joined NCBA in 2004. She directs all health promotions, advocacy and education programs for NCBA.