SAGE and Help USA looks to build an LGBT-friendly senior housing development

(l-r) SAGE executive director Michael Adams, Councilman Ritchie Torres and SAGE senior director of Program Catherine Thurston celebtrated the opening of the new SAGE Senior Center in Fordham in January. LGBT-friendly senior housing may be next.
Photo courtesy of SAGE

Advocates in the borough’s gay and lesbian community are calling for the creation of gay-friendly senior housing.

With an increase in demand for senior housing in general, and especially in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities, a partnership has developed between organizations Services & Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Elders (SAGE) and Help USA, an affordable housing advocacy group.

The goal is the creation of a LGBT-friendly housing development somewhere in the Bronx.

A plan is in the works with details that are still under wraps because funding for the project has not been secured, said Catherine Thurston, SAGE’s senior director for programing.

“Our focus is on the Bronx as the first borough in which we hope to build LGBT elder housing,” she said of SAGE’s efforts.

Housing is one of the areas where the LGBT older adults need the most assistance, and the organization feels that as a citywide agency, the Bronx is the place where their constituency’s elder population is most in need.

Having a building filled with LGBT seniors would create a supportive environment for older adults who have similar experiences, said Thurston.

As a group, older LGBT adults are more socially isolated than their heterosexual peers.

They are twice as likely to live alone, and four times less likely to have adult children, said Thurston.

“This is a community that is very vulnerable,” she said.

This leads to a higher degree of health disparities, she said, adding that 80% of senior caregiving is done by adult children.

A building for LGBT elders would include social and case management services and communal meals, she added.

In January, SAGE opened its first full-time senior center for the LGBT community at a Union Community Health Center in Fordham.

That center became operational with help from Councilman Ritchie Torres and support from the Department for the Aging.

Torres said that he applauded SAGE’s efforts to create affordable senior housing and supportive communities for LGBT elders.

“The need for affordable housing in New York City has reached crisis levels, particularly in the Bronx where renters face higher cost burdens than any other county in the United States,” said Torres, who is gay. “Seniors are especially vulnerable to rising costs of living, especially LGBT seniors who often have limited access to traditional support networks”.

The next step, said Thurston, is getting the LGBT community and funding sources for the project on board.

SAGE is a citywide agency that is based in lower Manhattan. Help USA, also based in Manhattan, is an organization that helps those in need or those who are homeless become and remain self-reliant.

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