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LGBT senior housing pioneer receives Purpose Prize

by Heather Cassell | Bay Area Recorder

Thursday, October 29, 2009

LGBT senior housing pioneer receives Purpose Prize

The founder of San Francisco's LGBT housing and services agency Openhouse will be honored by Civic Ventures with the Purpose Prize for her entrepreneurial spirit and work improving housing and social services for LGBT seniors.

Marcy Adelman, Ph.D., said she was pleased to have been selected.

"I am just so excited," said Adelman, 63. Adelman, an out lesbian, was one of 10 honorees selected out of more than 1,000 nominees for her vision to provide LGBT-friendly affordable housing and services. "I am deeply honored to receive this award and to be included in such an inspiring group of people."

The prize comes with $50,000 that Adelman plans to donate to Openhouse.

This is the first time an out lesbian has been selected for the award in its four-year history, according to Alexandra Kent, the director for the Purpose Prize of Civic Ventures. The award honors social entrepreneurs over 60 who are using their professional and life experience and passion to "take on society's biggest challenges," and is a part of the organization's $17 million Encore Careers campaign, according to a news release issued Monday, October 26.

Civic Ventures is a national think tank on boomers, work, and social purpose.

"Marcy just has a tremendous story," said Kent.

Openhouse evolved following the 2003 death of Adelman's partner, Jeanette Gurevitch. Both women founded what was then called Rainbow Adult Community Housing after witnessing their friends becoming displaced after being evicted or forced out of their apartments more than 10 years ago.

"She's someone who ... is just really stepping up and meeting the challenges that we all face today," Kent added .

Openhouse is currently in the process of building its first LGBT-friendly affordable senior retirement community of 88 units that will be a mixture of studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom apartments at 55 Laguna Street. The project's developer filed for bankruptcy earlier this year, but Seth Kilbourn, Openhouse's executive director, said at the time that the development is "minimally impacted."

Openhouse has also been instrumental in identifying LGBT-friendly senior housing and providing LGBT cultural sensitivity training to service providers throughout California.

The LGBT community should take pride in Adelman receiving this award, Kilbourn said.

"Her leadership of Openhouse has helped LGBT seniors emerge from isolation, connect to each other, advocate for themselves, and receive the critical housing and support services they need," said Kilbourn. "Marcy is an inspiring example of what can happen when a person puts their passion, creativity, determination, and experience to work for those in need."

Adelman, a psychologist, continues to serve on the agency's board but her vision has expanded from housing and social services to influencing legislation. She recently became a volunteer policy adviser for AARP in California.

Adelman wants to create "livable communities" where everyone – seniors, families, children, and people with disabilities – has affordable housing, supportive community services and amenities, and adequate transportation options to "facilitate civic engagement," she said.

"If we pursue livability to make our cities and communities better places for people to age and stay engaged in all aspects of life, then everyone benefits," Adelman said.

District 5 Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who worked closely with Adelman on the 55 Laguna project, said the award is "well deserved" and "her leadership ... can only make San Francisco proud."

Purpose Prize awardees were selected by a 24-member panel chaired by Sherry Lansing, CEO of the Sherry Lansing Foundation and former CEO of Paramount Pictures, that included actor Sidney Poitier and journalist Cokie Roberts among other leaders in business, politics, journalism, and the nonprofit sector.

Adelman will be presented with the honor, along with the other Purpose Prize winners and 46 prize fellows, at the Summit on Innovation, an invitation-only event that takes place this weekend at Stanford University's Graduate School of Business' Center on Social Innovation.

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