Like many San Franciscans, the residents of 55 Laguna moved to the city throughout the decades to live in a place where they were free to be themselves. But as rent prices soared, members of this aging LGBTQ community found themselves without a safe space, and often without housing, in a rapidly changing city. That’s when Dr. Marcy Adelman stepped in.
Adelman has spent the past 20 years advocating for safe housing and offering support to LGBTQ elders through her nonprofit, Openhouse. This spring, one of her biggest dreams finally came true: the birth of Openhouse LGBT Senior Housing, Community & Services, the city’s first senior apartments dedicated to the elderly LGBTQ community.
The Hayes Valley complex (55 Laguna St; 415-296-8995, openhouse-sf.org) offers affordable one-bedroom units to San Franciscans who are 55 years and older as well as access to case managers, support groups and legal counselors at the Ross LGBT Senior Center.
“Many senior citizens are left isolated in their apartments or are unable to climb the stairs to go out,” explains Dr. Karyn Skultety, executive director of Openhouse. “At Openhouse, residents interact with their neighbors on a daily basis, during movie nights and cooking classes or just reminiscing about old SF over lunch.”
While the building does not solely house LGBTQ seniors, about 70 percent of residents fall into that demographic. Other units are reserved for people living with HIV or previously homeless individuals who are transitioning from SRO housing.
Demand for the new apartments is great; more than 1,800 locals entered the first lottery. It’s so great, in fact, that Openhouse breaks ground on an additional 79 units and 7,000 square feet of space in August, and in February 2019 a whole new batch of residents will move in.
“This is just the start,” says Skultety. “A drop in the bucket. We want every LGBT senior to have a safe space to call home.”