By William E. Kelly | Senior Matters
Roughly seven years ago, I asked Dr. Delores Jacobs, the CEO of the San Diego LGBT Community Center (The Center), to provide a meeting space to assemble what became the volunteer “ad hoc working group on housing for LGBT Seniors, San Diego County.” She agreed and she and her staff at The Center provided the very necessary support I needed.
Our senior community was finding its voice and Dr. Jacobs and Sue Reynolds, president and CEO of Community HousingWorks (CHW) — both also members of our local LGBT community — and their staffs were listening.
Because of them, and the collaborative efforts of too many others to name, the heavy lifting was achieved and the little engine that could is now nearing the top of the hill: the North Park Senior Apartments (NPSA) — an LGBT-affirming senior community — are on schedule for completion in late December.
A computer lottery was conducted to randomly select and notify 125 applicants from an interest list of some 500 interested. The process of verifying application information provided by those 125 applicants is now over 50 percent completed and barring unforeseen circumstances, move-ins are expected to proceed in January.
The development consists of 76 units located at 4200 Texas St., at the corner of Howard Avenue. It offers seven studios, 65 one-bedrooms, three two-bedrooms and one, on-site manager apartment.
It is a rental community that will be open to all qualifying seniors but one that is also LGBT-affirming, meaning all who move in will support that endeavor.
While only a drop in the bucket when compared to the more affordable housing units San Diego urgently needs, we must not lose sight of just how groundbreaking and unique this development is as the first in the city to be marketed as “LGBT senior inclusive, supportive and affirming.” Its success will hopefully advance faster development of more affordable senior housing.
I recently interviewed Dr. Jacobs about the role The Center will play in providing services and programs to NPSA residents. Though some details are still being worked out, I share our conversation and follow it with my recollections of this incredible feat of a community unified in purpose.
(Bill Kelly | BK) How will the services and programs to be offered be determined?
(Dr. Delores Jacobs | DJ) Largely, the residents will decide their needs and interests. This will develop organically in a dialogue with residents. Services will begin as soon as residents begin to occupy their new homes. Most successful housing/resident projects have used a resident-driven process to establish services and programs. In partnership with a senior housing coordinator, this is the process we’ll use, including dialogues with all interested residents to discover what they hope for.
(BK) Does this mean additional staff for The Center?
(DJ) Yes, we will add a new part-time resident services and program coordinator. The position title is Senior Housing Client Manager. Persons interested in the position can read the job description and instructions for applying online at bit.ly/2jbu6Eb.
Initially, it will be part-time position during the hours that seem most desirable for residents. More hours could be added if the need and available funding exists.
(BK) What role will The Center play in providing resident services and programs?
(DJ) The Center will run the programs and services in a community area within the complex. A property management company will be onsite to handle the property management side of the operations, like maintenance, etc., but we will work closely to ensure the best communication and experience for residents.
Thank you Delores. I look forward to conducting follow-up interviews in the coming months as the project evolves into its own and all the “i’s” are dotted and the “t’s” crossed.
On my 60th birthday a decade ago, my husband Bob and I asked those we knew to contribute funds to add to our $2K donation for opening a donor-advised fund to help address LGBT senior needs. The San Diego Human Dignity Foundation (SDHDF) managed the fund.
Shortly after, the “Great Recession” hit and we decided to distribute all the funds to organizations serving seniors at that time and urgently in need of funds. A portion was granted to The Center to help fund the senior needs assessment survey, which produced the report that has helped guide The Center’s Senior Services and the hiring of LaRue Fields, senior services coordinator.
That assessment led to other studies and eventually the North Park Senior Apartments. To read the assessment, visit senior services on The Center’s website at bit.ly/2jbnmWI.
I reiterate that while there are far too many names to list, our community is all the better thanks to all the organizations and individuals who in some way contributed to the efforts of this project.
To the five original community volunteers of the ad hoc group who stood with me through the entire long and arduous but rewarding seven-year journey, I say WELL DONE! They are the late Bill Beck, Robert Bettinger, Richard Burhenne, Joselyn Harris and George Murphy. These five individuals passionately served their community in exemplary fashion. Because of their dedication, time, talent and donations, the little engine that could lent support to the bigger engines that would and did achieve this monumental collaborative community objective.
Last, but certainly not least, I express my deepest gratitude to Gene Burkard, who donated a large majority of the funds needed to conduct the needs assessment; and Dr. Jim Zians, research consultant, who waived a significant portion of his fees to allow us to afford the assessment with the limited funds we had raised.
We must forever remember that the sum efforts of a community that works in unison can accomplish nearly anything, as long as it does not waste too much of its time and resources repeatedly recreating wheels, rather than putting the pedal to the metal.
— Bill Kelly is a longtime local activist who currently focuses on LGBT senior issues and moderates the Caring for our LGBT Seniors in San Diego Facebook page. Access to the group is free to all seniors, their advocates, families, friends and caregivers. Reach Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org.