As LGBT People With HIV Age, How Can They Find Info on Good Housing Options?

Tim R. Johnston, Ph.D.
Tim R. Johnston, Ph.D.
Christina DaCosta

Come out wherever you are! SAGE is making it easier for LGBT people and people living with HIV/AIDS to find the homes they deserve with the launch of a new consumer education website. Welcome Home empowers LGBT elders, people living with HIV/AIDS, their caregivers and those who want to take control of their living situations with an interactive map and resources from a wide variety of partners, LGBT communities and more.

My partner and I recently moved from New York to California. Touring new apartments, we had landlords call us brothers, cousins, friends and roommates, but rarely did they ask whether we were partners. We even got a couple double takes when we assured the agent that, yes, one bedroom would be more than enough.

Thankfully our negative experience stopped at awkwardness, but we know that LGBT people, as well as folks living with HIV/AIDS, face serious barriers when looking for housing. Forty-eight percent of same-sex couples suffer from some sort of housing discrimination. Landlords may try to deny housing to people living with HIV/AIDS and staff may treat them poorly. The housing crunch is especially worrying for LGBT older adults, including those living with HIV. In 15 years, there will be an estimated three million LGBT elders living in the United States, and 42% of LGBT older people fear they will outlive the money they have saved for retirement -- compared with 25% of non-LBGT older people.

As a member of SAGE's training team, I've spent a lot of time in different senior living communities, and I know that they present some particular challenges for members of both the LGBT and the HIV-positive community. People are often concerned about discrimination and bullying from staff or other residents. Staff who have not been trained in LGBT cultural competency might not know how to advocate for the rights of a transgender community member, the best language to respect older person's bisexual identity or how to prevent tension between LGBT and non-LGBT identified residents. With 50% of people living with HIV/AIDS now over the age of 50, staff also require training on the specific needs of people living with HIV/AIDS. This includes training to prevent the stigmatization of residents living with HIV/AIDS, as well as on the challenges of navigating the intersection between HIV/AIDS and other age-related health issues.

These concerns are why SAGE has developed the Welcome Home consumer education website -- the only national resource to help you find housing that respects your identities, families and loved ones.

Just starting your housing hunt? Our Housing 101 resources give you information on different types of housing and the latest news on housing markets. Our Know Your Rights materials will equip you with the knowledge you need to advocate for yourself or a loved one, and they tell you where to go if you fear you have experienced unequal treatment because you are LGBT identified and/or living with HIV/AIDS. You can also find statistics, reports and information about LGBT housing, and our interactive map displays information on your state's policies, local advocacy groups and any housing developed specifically for LGBT older people. In addition, the site will eventually feature specific housing information for HIV-positive elders.

Welcome Home is only one part of SAGE's LGBT Elder Housing Initiative. We have recently announced the development of two New York City housing developments specifically geared toward LGBT older adults. Together, the Ingersoll Senior Residences and Crotona Senior Residences will have more than 200 units of affordable housing. Each building will have a senior center (modeled on SAGE's innovative senior centers in Chelsea, the Bronx, Harlem, Brooklyn and Staten Island) that will provide programming and services and serve a hot meal.

We love to see bulldozers and cranes building LGBT senior housing, but we also recognize that LGBT older adults and people living with HIV/AIDS should be welcome in all housing environments. That's why we've launched SAGECare. SAGECare provides training and consulting on LGBT aging issues to all service providers, and we have training courses specifically designed for staff working in affordable housing, nursing care and other residential communities. Participating agencies are given a SAGECare credential that demonstrates their commitment to creating an inclusive environment where everyone is treated with respect. You can search through our database to located credentialed agencies and communities in your area, and if you're visiting a new community, please ask whether they've heard about SAGECare.

Locating safe, affordable and stable housing is a complex process. SAGE's multiple strategies are designed to help you and your loved ones every step of the way. SAGE has your back, and we can't wait to say "Welcome Home."

Tim R. Johnston, Ph.D., is SAGE's assistant director of social enterprise and training. He provides training and technical assistance on LGBT aging. You can reach him at @johnstontimr.