ST. LOUIS - One Sunday afternoon in the spring of 2008, a group of lesbian women who were all over the age of 60 met with Sherrill Wayland of SAGE Metro St. Louis (Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Elders).
It was at this meeting that Wayland asked the women what their plans were if they had to move into senior housing one day. After a brief pause, one of the women responded, “I guess we will just have to move. Move to another city or state that is more accepting of us.”
Safe and affordable housing is a concern facing many older adults who live on fixed incomes. However, for thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older adults, they encounter the additional barrier of discrimination and being denied housing simply based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. The response Wayland heard at that meeting has served as a constant reminder of the reason for the work SAGE does in supporting the needs of LGBT older adults. States Wayland, “LGBT older adults should be able to live in the same senior housing communities as their straight peers, knowing that they are safe and welcomed.”
With the support of the City of St. Louis , SAGE now has an opportunity to help ensure that LGBT older adults have equal access to affordable housing in St. Louis . The City of St. Louis recently awarded SAGE $30,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to assist implementation of HUD’s recent landmark ruling called “Equal Access to Housing in HUD Programs.” Because of this ruling and the support of the City of St. Louis , LGBT individuals and families finally have fair and equal access to HUD funded programs.
This grant has resulted in the first LGBT Older Adult Outreach program in St. Louis , thanks to the full support of Mayor Francis Slay and Alderman Shane Cohn. As part of this program, SAGE will provide training and technical assistance to senior housing providers on how to best serve their LGBT older adult clients. SAGE will also develop an LGBT senior housing resource guide which will promote those housing providers who have adopted LGBT inclusive policies and procedures. In addition, the guide will provide older adults with information regarding their rights to equal housing and how to file complaints should they encounter discrimination.
“Equal access to senior housing and services is essential for the health and well being of LGBT older adults so that they might age in the communities where they have lived, worked and paid taxes their entire lives,” states Wayland. “This program places Mayor Slay and the City of St. Louis among the leaders who have embraced equal access for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”
“I’m proud that the City of St. Louis was able to work with SAGE to help our older LGBT residents,” said Mayor Slay. “ All St. Louisans – regardless of age, race, sexual orientation, or gender identity – should have access to affordable and safe housing.”