Senior Housing Struggles

A national story told through the eyes of Philly residents

The William Way was originally going to construct LGBT senior housing (pictured here in an artist's rendering), but opted out this year over budgetary concerns. Now, the 52-unit residence is slated to be build elsewhere in Philly starting in 2013 (courtesy of William Way)

Donald Carter was recently featured in an article in USA Today about housing for LGBT seniors. In the piece, he shares his story about being a low-income renter (on a third-floor walkup) and the toll of aging in a community that is often criticized for valuing youth.

“The system as it stands is not very accommodating,” Carter tells the paper, worrying that many seniors like himself will feel the need to hide their sexuality after years of being out of the closet simply to qualify for traditional housing.

It’s a discussion LGBT leaders in Philly have been having for the last several years, starting when the William Way considered building LGBT senior housing on its property, only to change plans. The housing center will be built in another location, according to the most recent reports, hoping to break ground on a 52-unit facility by 2013.

But designating housing as LGBT comes with its shares of woes – namely turning people away simply because they may not be LGBT (which is illegal). But as millions of baby boomers turn 65 this year, and as many of them identify as being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, the question arises: Where to gay seniors go when they need the same assistance that others require at their age? Many LGBT-friendly facilities are targeted toward the wealthiest in the community. What happens to seniors like Carter?

According to Jackie Adams, a transgender woman in Philly who is also quoted in the article, being who she is has become paramount in the golden years. “I would be incomplete if I had to go from wearing stockings and dresses to (work boots) and jeans,” she explains. “I would like to be able to live in a community where I could fully be me.”

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