Affordable housing complex for LGBTQ+ seniors to open in Pittsburgh – LGBTQ Nation

Author: John Russell

An affordable housing complex set to open next year in Pittsburgh will address housing issues faced by the city’s LGBTQ+ seniors.

As Presbyterian SeniorCare Network president and CEO Jim Pieffer explained, the project began to take shape seven years ago after a conversation he had with Kathi Boyle, who works with the Persad Center, a non-profit LGBTQ+-affirming mental health facility in Pittsburgh.

“She said, ‘You know, I’d really love for Presbyterian SeniorCare Network to consider building an affordable community for our LGBTQ seniors,’” Pieffer told the Post-Gazette.

Boyle explained to Pieffer that many of the Persad Center’s older clients were reluctant to go into traditional retirement communities, fearing they would have to hide the fact that they are LGBTQ+, a common problem among queer and trans elders.

LGBTQ+ elders face other challenges impacting their access to housing as well. According to a 2017 report from Movement Advancement Project and SAGE, discrimination in housing and employment over the course of their lifetime often leads to economic insecurity among older LGBTQ+ folks, and a reliance on chosen family can lead to isolation and vulnerability. A lack of robust laws banning discrimination on the basis of sexuality and gender identity in many states also means that LGBTQ+ elders may find it hard to find housing without having to re-closet themselves.

“One of the symptoms of discrimination is not having material resources,” 69-year-old Lester Olson said. “Some of us are lucky enough to be able to negotiate our way through it. But the reality is that people oftentimes don’t have the resources, so this is invaluable.”

Mosaic Apartments aims to tackle these problems in Pittsburgh.

“What Presbyterian SeniorCare is doing here is they’re saying to all of those other senior care facilities throughout the state and the country that acceptance of our community is important,” said Marty Healey, Persad Center’s CEO. “The stigma and feelings of lack of acceptance starts to creep back into people’s lives as they get older, so it’s exciting to see something happen here. Something that really allows you to be embraced.”

“People in this age group are approaching needing this housing are used to being in the closet,” said 71-year-old Bob Kunkle, who is on the Mosaic Apartments advisory committee. “We can open that door or close it. We had to all our lives.”

Chief among the issues the committee has tackled over the past year and a half is safety. Given the recent rise in anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes, artwork on the complex’s exterior will have a washable surface to prevent defacement. And even the complex’s name, Mosaic Apartments, was chose from nearly 140 community submissions to minimize the chances that it could be targeted.

“Originally, we were going to try to name it after somebody in the LGBTQ community, and the feedback we got was, let’s try to make it something that is sensitive, but not so direct,” Pieffer explained. “We can do some things internally in the building to recognize LGBTQ leaders, but from the outside, we want the world to think it’s just a nice apartment building.”

Mosaic Apartments will also offer LGBTQ+-focused counseling and health screenings, and staff will be trained to understand the challenges faced by the queer and trans community.

“People told us these folks should just be happy you’re building this building, like, why are you taking this extra time?” said Pieffer. “They should just be happy to have a safe place to live. But that’s not very fulfilling, is it? That means you’re in the real estate business. We’re in the ‘helping seniors improve their lives’ business.”

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Actual Story on LGBTQ Nation
Author: John Russell

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