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Pennsylvania

Affordable housing for LGBT seniors opens in heart of downtown Philadelphia

Tuesday, January 14, 2014
Matt Rourke, APShown is the new John C. Anderson apartments building ion Philadelphia, an affordable housing complex aimed at gay seniors.

Matt Rourke, AP
Shown is the new John C. Anderson apartments building ion Philadelphia, an affordable housing complex aimed at gay seniors.

PHILADELPHIA — Jerry Zeft was so excited to move into his new apartment that he slept on an air mattress for nearly a week while he waited for his bed and other belongings to catch up with him. No matter that he’s 70 years old.

Zeft had landed a coveted spot in a new affordable housing complex for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender seniors in the heart of downtown Philadelphia. Only two other U.S. cities have similar developments.

“I wanted to get into a community that I’m more comfortable in,” Zeft said shortly after picking up the keys to his unit.

Matt Rourke, APJerry Zeft, 70, explores his new home in the John C. Anderson apartments in Philadelphia, an affordable housing complex aimed at gay seniors.

Matt Rourke, AP
Jerry Zeft, 70, explores his new home in the John C. Anderson apartments in Philadelphia, an affordable housing complex aimed at gay seniors.

Mark Segal

span>Matt Rourke, AP
Mark Segal, chairman of the Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld Fund, spearheaded development of the John C. Anderson apartments, an affordable housing complex aimed at gay seniors.

This month’s opening of the John C. Anderson Apartments vindicates years of work by supporters who felt gay elders have been marginalized by youth culture, even within LGBT circles.

Experts say gay seniors are less likely than their straight peers to have the financial and family resources to age in homes of their own. Many fear discrimination at traditional elder housing faciliti es, leading them back into the closet after years of being open.

Philadelphia now joins Los Angeles and Minneapolis as locations with designated gay-friendly, affordable senior housing, collectively offering about 200 units.

Yet advocates say that’s nowhere near enough. Research indicates the number of gay seniors in the U.S. is expected to double to 3 million by 2030.

“It’s quite amazing that we have done so little for seniors to have a place that they can afford and that offers them respect and safety,” said Barbara Satin, an LGBT activist who worked on the 46-unit Minneapolis project.

Although anti-discrimination laws prohibit gay-only housing, buildings can be made LGBT-friendly through marketing and location. The $19.5 million Anderson project, named for a city councilman who fought for gay rights, sits in the affectionately nicknamed Gayborhood. When the leasing office opened last fall, hopeful tenants sat in a block-long line to drop off applic ations.

Those seniors belong to the generation that blazed a trail for gay rights, said Mark Segal, chairman of the Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld Fund, which spearheaded the development. Yet their activism and openness often cost them both family ties and the opportunity for traditional jobs with retirement benefits, he said.

“Why should people, who were the pioneers of the community, not live with dignity? It’s outrageous,” Segal said. “We have to take care of our own – nobody else is.”

At the 56-unit Philadelphia building, monthly rents range from $192 to $786 based on income, which can’t exceed $33,000 per year. There is a waiting list for lower-tier units, though about a dozen remain at the upper end. Nearly all the residents identify as LGBT.

Two more complexes are under construction in Chicago and San Francisco. The Hirschfeld fund is interested in building units in New York, Segal said.

The housing problem may ease for future generations as legal ized gay marriage allows same-sex spouses to inherit a partner’s property and benefits, said Catherine Thurston, senior program director at New York-based Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders. However, she said many current seniors aren’t married and don’t own their homes.

Thurston also noted that it’s important to offer seniors more than just a place to live – they need activities and social services “to connect them to their community.”

The Anderson apartments has partnered with the nearby William Way LGBT Community Center to provide residents with counseling, programs and events. That’s another reason Jerry Zeft decided to sell his house in the city’s Oxford Circle section and move downtown.

“I don’t like staying home. I enjoy getting out,” Zeft said. “And this is the perfect place to get out in this area.”

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55 more reader comments:

  1. yeah Philadelphia!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 3:54pm
  2. yay Jere

    Posted on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 3:54pm
  3. right on

    Posted on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 3:54pm
  4. awesome!!!!!!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 3:54pm
  5. maybe soon,,,!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 3:55pm
  6. Pretty cool

    Posted on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 3:56pm
  7. That is so awesome, yeah Philly!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 3:57pm
  8. Soooo cute!!!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 3:58pm
  9. Chicago needs the same

    Posted on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 4:01pm
  10. Wonderful!!!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 4:02pm
  11. Add me girls x

    Posted on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 4:02pm
  12. Awesome! Every city needs this!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 4:03pm
  13. agreed. even just for young up and coming adults who want to build themselves up.

    Replied on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 4:21pm
  14. it's not sad vicky, we celebrate it!

    Replied on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 4:30pm
  15. sad…why do our LGBT seniors need to be separate from our straight seniors….Housing for seniors should be just that …housing for seniors regardless of sexual identity.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 4:03pm
  16. I agree with you Vicky but to belong to a community of all like people is certainly a nice option for those who would chose to live there. Just another option and it is great that these sorts of living facilities are popping up in several places.

    Replied on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 4:22pm
  17. Ah I can think 0f thousands of reasons. Sad but what our society is today.

    Replied on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 4:26pm
  18. Oh, I agree if that is a choice, but in so many cases, it is not.

    Replied on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 4:28pm
  19. I'm sure there is a comraderie (sp?) there that can't be duplicated elsewhere. This is not an issue about what is right or wrong about it though; its just a nice option.

    Replied on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 4:45pm
  20. Be happy that its available in the first place

    Replied on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 4:46pm
  21. People in society want to be within a group of equally yoked individuals. We like to be where we fit in. It's human nature to be separatists, well most of us anyway. You don't see wild animals in the wild, intermingling with other types of animals, for the most part. We really aren't any better.

    Replied on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 4:51pm
  22. In 3 generations, God willing

    Replied on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 5:21pm
  23. Where is this housing unit Is it in Massachusetts

    Posted on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 4:04pm
  24. I love this (y) but not in my country, they’ll burn the building down.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 4:04pm
  25. That’s commonly referred to as a “ghetto”

    Posted on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 4:04pm
  26. People like you are commonly referred to as idiots. Our downtown "Gayborhood" is not a ghetto, and this complex is based on income & geared toward the LGBT community seniors. At least Philly doesn't leave them homeless.

    Replied on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 4:10pm
  27. ghet·to ˈgetō noun 1. a part of a city, esp. a slum area, occupied by a minority group or groups. verb 1. put in or restrict to an isolated or segregated area or group. If you want to be segregated like you're some sort of leper, that's on you, but I think it's lame. And btw, good job on IMMEDIATELY going to name calling. That'll help.

    Replied on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 4:11pm
  28. To put It bluntly THIS ROCKS!!!! WONDERFUL!! not only sound reasoning ,but sound business , a win win !!!!!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 4:05pm
  29. can we have some for lgbt youth too

    Posted on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 4:08pm
  30. This is wonderful! :)

    Posted on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 4:08pm
  31. so appropriate that the 1st case fought in support of the gay community in the fight against discrimination against someone with AIDS being fired. Those years I remember so well, I just didn’t know that in a short few years time a member of my family had HIV…. The World did not want to acknowledge nor help with research..a death sentence. my family was part of two trial medications the third one worked….but they would not let him into it due to his weak condition. It worked, 33 years later that wonderful person is still alive to be with me….We are taking bets now which one goes first…lololol…..Would love to see a place built like this is every city of a certain population.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 4:09pm
  32. This is amazing that LGBT elderly community has a place to call there own and can finally be safe…

    Posted on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 4:09pm
  33. Separate. …is that a good thing? I’m glad its done xx but we are facing same problem in Australia where aged care dominated by religious groups

    Posted on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 4:09pm
  34. Wow we need one of those in Houston Tx.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 4:13pm
  35. And Dallas.

    Replied on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 4:29pm
  36. So few places available for our LGBT seniors.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 4:16pm
  37. It’s stupid, we’re trying to fight away from segregation.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 4:17pm
  38. Disagree with it, segregation isn’t the way forward… It just leads to more isolation, the same if you have ethnic exclusive areas

    Posted on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 4:17pm
  39. Hollywood has Triangle Square Apartments.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 4:18pm
  40. VERY COOL!!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 4:20pm
  41. Wouldn’t you be a bit afraid they might be targeted?

    Posted on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 4:23pm
  42. Looks nice now…I know it will even look better soon. Some flowers, a cafe on the bottom ..hm?

    Posted on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 4:24pm
  43. I know we need this in the greater Baltimore area and its needed in the greater Detroit area as well!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 4:31pm
  44. People wouldn’t need these services if there were places that welcomed them. Who wants to go live in some place that spews religious hatred for you and people like you? Who wants to live in a place, especially as an aged adult who may or may not have disabilities where the chances of abuse/neglect/isolation based on your sexual orientation, from your caregivers and other residents can be a reality? Separate living spaces wouldn’t be needed if medical care wasn’t being mixed with religious dogma. Separate living spaces wouldn’t be needed if people stopped being bigots. If separate senior living centers are what it takes for these people to feel safe and cared for then that is an option that should be available to them.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 4:36pm
  45. yes

    Posted on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 4:37pm
  46. We don’t need to be separate but how cool is it if your neighbors, hopefully, friends can identify with your life.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 4:37pm
  47. Where

    Posted on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 4:39pm
  48. What a lovely gesture!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 4:42pm
  49. About time

    Posted on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 4:43pm
  50. I think the reason why its seperate is to lower the possibility of discrimination from other housing facilities, I mean think about it. Would you live in a place where straights and religious nutters mutter bigoted, homophobic comments at you? Its slow but its a start, so chill, at least they have a garaunteed option now so they wont be out on the streets.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 4:45pm
  51. This is cool and needed in every major city.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 4:47pm
  52. Im not a senior but get me in there love it its beautiful can i live there too.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 4:55pm
  53. As I commented on someone else’s post. I do not oppose this. No doubt, there are some who would rather have this. I never want this to be the ‘only’ option. As the parent of a LGBT, I know that isolation is not what my daughter wants for her family….others might feel differently.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 5:11pm
  54. what a beautiful looking building and what an amazing idea, always thought the senior people should have some kind of refuge if desired by them to be away from the rowdiness of the younger people, im straight but the older i get i certainly would love to live somewhere like this, spare boxroom anyone?????

    Posted on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 5:21pm
  55. Stacy Scherr

    Posted on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 5:26pm