No golden years for LGBT seniors

Jeremy Mykaels is a senior facing eviction in the Castro

According to studies, queer seniors are poorer than their straight counterparts. They’re half as likely to have health insurance, and two-thirds as likely to live alone. Not to mention facing discrimination in medical and social services, retirement homes, and nursing care facilities. So much for the “golden years.”
Here in San Francisco, LGBT seniors face another grave threat: evictions. Many of our elderly live in rent-controlled apartments that are targeted by real-estate speculators and investors out to make big bucks turning them into tenancies-in-common.

With median rents close to $3,000 a month and vacancy rates low, the odds are pretty good that an evicted senior won’t find an affordable place in the city. For a senior with AIDS, an eviction is especially threatening since our city offers the best treatment and services. Studies show that people with AIDS who lose their apartments tend to die sooner, especially if they become homeless. 

The only LGBT organization that actually addresses the housing needs of queer seniors is Open House. Its 110 units at 55 Laguna will be the first affordable queer senior housing development in the city. I hope it’s not the last. As for seniors with AIDS, there’s only one AIDS organization in the vast list of groups and services -- the AIDS Housing Alliance -- that actually finds housing for its clients. It was started by Brian Basinger, a gay man with AIDS, after he was evicted and his apartment was sold as a TIC.

No one knows how many LGBT seniors have been, and are being, evicted. Ditto for how many seniors with AIDS end up on the streets. We also don’t have stats on how many transgender seniors are victims of real estate greed or live in absolute terror of losing their homes. 

The Rent Board doesn’t break down its eviction stats by sexual orientation or even age. The city’s homeless count doesn’t mention if someone’s queer or transgender. There is no way to determine how many LGBT seniors live in SROs or with life-threatening conditions such as mold or lack of heat. Or how many live in homes that have been -- or are being -- foreclosed.

That’s why the housing subcommittee of the city’s LGBT Aging Policy Task Force is holding a hearing into the housing needs and concerns of queer seniors. Information is power.

All LGBT seniors -- housed and homeless -- are invited to come testify about their housing issues. Whether they live in an SRO or a home that they own, whether they sleep in a shelter or a rent-controlled apartment, whether they’re in a subsidized unit or an illegal in-law, the subcommittee wants to hear from them about their concerns and needs.

The subcommittee will ultimately be making recommendations that will be included in a task force report on what the city can do to address LGBT issues.
LGBT seniors deserve their golden years.

The hearing is Monday, April 1, 9am to 12 noon, room 416, City Hall. Written testimony accepted. For more info, call Tommi at 415-703-8634.
Tommi Avicolli Mecca is a longtime queer and tenants rights/affordable housing activist who works for Housing Rights Committee. He is a member of the LGBT Aging Policy Task Force.


Trouble is, he's pissed off just about every prog around him -- that is, the only people who care about the most vulnerable.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 27, 2013 @ 11:14 am

Welch, Hestor, Tim etc., he can mouth off about how unfair the housing market is, while all the time knowing his little enstegg is safe, and that he is participating in the very same RE boom that is hurting so many like him.

He is in a post-empathetic state, suffering from compassion fatigue.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 27, 2013 @ 11:25 am

That goes for any one of you -- rich, poor or middle class. You might get lucky but you can also get hit by misfortune. Say you break up with your partner, the one with the steady job. Or your health suffers. Or some psychotic SF driver crashes into your bike on the day you forgot to wear your helmet. The stock market could crash, taking your savings with it. Or your company folds, etc. No one is invulnerable.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 27, 2013 @ 11:55 am

more interesting question to ask there is "so what?". Is that a rational basis for changing public policy?

The fact that I could be hit by a truck tomorrow and die does not generally inform what policies I am willing to vote for.

And if I am dead, I am not going to give a flying hoot anyway.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 27, 2013 @ 12:09 pm

The whole point of society and government is that most people do, in fact, care about what happens to other people and would like to do something to protect them from some of the worst slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

Posted by Hortencia on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 7:40 am

some personal connection to me.

But my caring for everyone out there is limited to statistical factors. So while I might think it's bad that anyone should suffer, in practice anything done to alleviate the sufefring of one potentially increases the suffering of another.

So the decision rests on my perception of the tradeoff, and not based on how I feel about something. A wounded bird may distress me, but I'm not sure I want to pay more taxes to ensure that all birds get surgery.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 8:08 am

We're talking about your fellow human beings. I don't see how making sure people have a basic social safety net increases anyone's suffering. On the contrary, I'd say the improvements in public health and public spaces would be a net gain, even if you have no moral feeling for the downtrodden.

Posted by Hortencia on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 8:43 am

can increase my costs, so I am entitled to a view on how extensive such care should be.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 9:00 am

...are we.

Posted by Hortencia on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 9:08 am

or not they feel empathy and to what degree.

Those with empathy do not tend to make up false analogies to excuse their not acting on it (yes, I'm painting with a broad brush here) but people have various reasons.

For instance, I remember a figure who was in the news not long ago who indeed had some outrageous fortune -- though he was himself in part responsible for it.

For the most part it was those of this forum who never display any credible regard for progressive values that were the most sharply vitriolic and vindictive about the man's situation, despite his obvious suffering.

(Of course, Noam Chomsky said that the whole point of government was to commit war crimes, if I recall correctly.)

Posted by lillipublicans on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 8:53 am

care or welfare comes at a cost, and those who are paying get to say how much they are willing to pay.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 9:01 am

I take great pride in the sheer number of professional progressives who have unfriended me on facebook.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 27, 2013 @ 12:02 pm

wanting to better yourself rather than wallow in the mire of miserable failure but "glorious" mediocrity.

No wonder they hate you now.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 27, 2013 @ 12:11 pm

He didn't write this piece.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Mar. 27, 2013 @ 2:31 pm

probably accepts the baggage that comes along with preciously, and often self-servingly, tooting his horn for the classes of people he personally favors over those whom he disapproves of.

Those who live by the class warfare swords typically perish by them too.

Posted by anon on Mar. 27, 2013 @ 2:49 pm

X (whatever X is) does not mean that there is any discrimination taking place. The property investors who i know do not actively seek out people to evict based on their membership of a class. Rather, they quite naturally target those properties that are occupied by people who pay only a relatively small proportion of the value of the property, since those are the under-valued properties that an investor would most likely be interested in.

So it may be that more evictions happen to, say, the poor or the unemployed or the elderly or immigrants simply because they are more likely to occupy under-valued properties.

But your example of gays is odd because it is often noted that gays are fairly affleunt as a group, being often examples of DINK'ies (two incomes; no kids). You only have to stroll around the Castro looking at all those elegant million dollar homes to see many gays are doing very well indeed.

In fact, many gays are property investors, speculators and landlords. So perhaps, Tommi, you should address this within your own community, perhaps initiating some charitable events and programs. It certainly isn't clear that any policies need to be changed and, indeed, as far as Ellis is concerned, there are no policy options anyway.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 27, 2013 @ 11:23 am

The article states that "many of our elderly live in rent-controlled apartments that are targeted by real-estate speculators and investors out to make big bucks turning them into tenancies-in-common" but is there any data to support that?

Posted by The Commish on Mar. 27, 2013 @ 11:58 am

the classes of people that Tommi clearly favors. So the conclusion would have to be that his premise is anecdotal in nature, i.e. because he is an ageing gay man, he knows a disproportionate number of other gay men and, when one of them gets evicted because they are not contributing fair value for their housing, Tommi claims to see discrimination.

Posted by anon on Mar. 27, 2013 @ 3:02 pm

Can we have some stories about heterosexuals for a while? Preferably ones that aren't too poor?

Posted by Chromefields on Mar. 27, 2013 @ 12:07 pm

could progressives ever credibly maintain class warfare?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 27, 2013 @ 12:18 pm

...the Wall Street Journal instead. Coming to the Bay Guardian and complaining about all the articles about the more oppressed segments of society is like reading Bon Appetit and complaining about all the recipes.

Posted by Hortencia on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 8:44 am

pay for all this largesse, they might show a little more respect for them.

All this class warfare shtick gets tedious after a while.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 9:03 am

I'm not sure why you'd expect anyone to respect corporations and the wealthy when they've shown ever-decreasing respect for the rest of society.

Posted by Hortencia on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 9:07 am

Growing old with dignity is much more difficult for seniors who don't have kids, as most LGBT don't have kids, than it is for those who do have kids who can help care for their senior parents.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 27, 2013 @ 12:07 pm

reward for bringing them up right. It is how you ultimately know whether or not you did a good job.

If people choose not to have kids (regardless of whether that is because you are gay, or any other reason) then you understand that the downside of such a decision is the risk of a lonely end to your life.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 27, 2013 @ 12:13 pm

And this is exactly why we need supportive senior LGBT housing.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 27, 2013 @ 12:27 pm

two more important questions:

1) Who will do the supporting, i.e. who pays?

2) What about straight seniors? They should not be denied opportunities available to LGBT seniors, as that would be reverse discrimination.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 27, 2013 @ 12:44 pm

including owning property and not depending on a rent-controlled unit as their home when they age, setting aside money in investment and retirement accounts and not blowing it all on long weekends in Palm Springs and the latest designer frocks. It's not only GLBT seniors who are being impacted by poor life choices and retirement planning BTW - it's a lot of older people for whom the piper is now coming due.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Mar. 27, 2013 @ 12:07 pm

because it dooms us to endless squabbles between the SF equivalent of the Judean Popular Front and the Popular Front of Judea.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 27, 2013 @ 12:14 pm

What has killed progressive politics in San Francisco is corruption: the cooption of labor and the nonprofits who then turn on neighborhood folks and unaffiliated progressives and liberals.

When the various pay to play factions on "our side" compete with one another to the partner with corporate power to move their agenda over their competitors, that's the death spiral.

The PFJ and JPF are the nonprofits, both "social justice" and "enviro" tribes and organized labor. So long as individuals and organizations have a price point, they are compromised. That is why city government marginalizes citizens and only allows those they have power over to the table when crafting public policy.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 27, 2013 @ 12:22 pm

It's not just poor life choices that result in senior-citizen poverty, and even if it does, are we supposed to leave old people out in the cold? Your tone reflects an awfully Hobbesian view of the world, Lu.

Posted by Hortencia on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 8:00 am

involved if people think theyc an be immunized from adverse outcomes.

The best way to avoid having poor, homeless senior's is their knowledge that that might happen if they do not make prident choices.

In Europe, living off welfare is a "lifestyle option" - some people choose not to work or save because they know there is a safety net. America really does not have that and many would argue that that is why our economy has been so successful over the last 150 years.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 8:15 am

Actually, we can provide a basic social safety net to make sure people have shelter, food, and basic health care. And we should.

Posted by Hortencia on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 8:33 am

The problem is that the welfare budget is spiralling out of control.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 8:46 am

Which welfare budget? And how is it spiraling out of control?

Posted by Hortencia on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 9:06 am

The Federal Government spends $75 Billion on food programs every year. If 25 Million Americans get food subsidies, that comes out to $3,000 per person per year. And still many people advocate the Government should be providing more - including free breakfasts and lunches for EVERYONE in public schools. That's out of control.

Posted by Richmondman on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 10:01 am

How does that help public health or promote the general welfare?

Posted by Hortencia on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 10:12 am

I think we need to be shutting up and embracing our new role as serfs, saving our starvation energies to pay our taxes for bank bailouts and the perpetual war machine.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 10:39 am

Shall we spend more on medicaid or more on defense. The sequester cuts far more from defense than non-defense, and takes nothing from the entitlement programs.

So far, therefore, you are getting your way. Whether we can afford such welfare largesse is quite another matter.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 10:52 am

Voters voted against more military and bank bail outs, most everyone between the Tea Party and OWS, 2/3 of voters, support these policies, yet the wars grind on and the insolvent banks remain afloat.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 11:01 am

voted for the wrong folks.

If Nader had gotten enough votes, none of that would have happened. But instead the left blamed him for handing W a victory.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 11:06 am

The game is rigged.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 11:25 am

The election was stolen/bought/rigged.

Again, Nader has stood on alternative parties and nobody was interested.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 11:32 am

Do you understand that more people voted for Democrats for the House of Representatives than Republicans? Not that having the Dems in charge is any guarantee of great government, but they're usually better than the Repubs.

Posted by Hortencia on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 11:30 am

...if we choose to pay for it.

Posted by Hortencia on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 11:21 am

But dewey-eyed appeals for compassion don't cut it. Come up with a plan, cost it out fully, and then ask the voters whether they care enough to pay whatever it takes.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 11:33 am

importance of considering the fiscal outcomes from ever higher provision of welfare benefits.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 10:49 am

It's a hard, practical public health choice that you don't want to seem to make because the only right answer--taking care of people who can't take care of themselves--might make rich people slightly less rich.

Posted by Hortencia on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 11:29 am

Who titled this?

The title reads, "LGBT"

Where the Q for queer?

The word "queer" is used throughout the article. I use the word queer most often.

Therefore, shouldn't the title be: LGBTQ ??

And why is it "L" first? That seems to be a sheeple thing.

It used to be GLBTQ. Because lesbians were included/part of the gay "category" from the beginning. Putting the L first seems chauvinistic as in "lady's first." Ugh.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 27, 2013 @ 12:38 pm

The "Q" is redundant since queerdom is already broken down and deconstructed into it's component parts:

gay men

gay females

gay anyone inbetween

It really doesn't leave anyone out, ya know?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 27, 2013 @ 12:48 pm