Print Email Share

LGBT senior, housing issues win attention

Obama administration acts to aid elders, study discrimination

Friday, October 30, 2009

LGBT senior, housing issues win attention

Obama administration officials are acting to address the needs of LGBT seniors and curtail housing discrimination against LGBT people, including same-sex couples that apply for public housing programs designated for low-income families.

Department of Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Oct. 21 announced plans to establish the first national resource center to promote services and support for “older lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals.”

Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, and Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said the new resource center would help an especially vulnerable and mostly invisible population.

“We know that invisibility leads to greater social isolation, which is acknowledged as a major problem for people as they age, and can be particularly difficult for LGBT people,” Carey said.

Solmonese also noted that “LGBT elders face significant discrimination from senior care providers, including in places where we are most vulnerable, such as assisted living facilities and end-of-life care.”

“We applaud HHS for taking this important step on behalf of older LGBT Americans,” he said.

The announcement came the same day that U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan announced unrelated moves to “ensure that HUD’s core housing programs are open to all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

One proposed new rule would “clarify that the term ‘family’ as used to describe eligible beneficiaries of our public housing and Housing Choice Voucher programs include otherwise eligible lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender individuals and couples,” according to HUD.

The rule also would require that private housing contractors who participate in HUD’s subsidized housing programs to comply with local and state non-discrimination laws that ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

In a related development, Donovan announced that HUD was commissioning the first national study of discrimination against LGBT people related to the rental or sale of housing.

The study will be modeled after HUD studies conducted in 1977, 1989 and 2000 on the impact of housing discrimination based on race and color, according to the statement.

“The evidence is clear that some are denied the opportunity to make housing choices in our nation based on who they are and that must end,” Donovan said. “President Obama and I are determined that a qualified individual and family will not be denied housing choice based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Solmonese lauded the proposed new HUD rules for helping “some of the most vulnerable people in our community,” and said the housing discrimination study would “finally shed light” on the obstacles that LGBT people face “in trying to make homes for themselves and their families.”

Also praised were the HHS efforts toward addressing the needs of LGBT seniors.

“This resource center is a truly historic recognition of the needs of LGBT older adults across the country and will make a huge difference in the lives of so many seniors,” said Michael Adams, executive director of the New York-based Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Elders, known as SAGE.

According to an HHS statement, the new Resource Center for LGBT Elders would provide “information, assistance and resources for both LGBT organizations and mainstream aging services providers at the state and community level.”

The statement says the center would assist such organizations “in the development and provision of culturally sensitive supports and services.”

The Administration on Aging, an arm of HHS, plans to “award a single Resource Center grant at approximately $250,000 per year, pending availability of funds,” to an outside organization willing to establish and operate the center, according to the statement. Eligible entities include public-private nonprofit organizations with experience working on LGBT issues on a national level.

Moya Thompson, a spokesperson for the Administration on Aging, said her agency would soon issue an announcement inviting eligible organizations to apply for the grant in a competitive process.

She said a single organization would be selected to operate the Resource Center under the supervision of the Administration on Aging as an official HHS operation.

Link: Original Article