Embracing Inclusivity: Pride Place and the LGBTQ+ Senior Community

Posted By: Carter Nelson Advocacy News, Member Spotlight, WMFHA Updates,

Living in the Pacific Northwest, particularly in Seattle, we often take pride in our reputation as a beacon of progress and acceptance, especially concerning social issues. However, it's crucial to acknowledge that the journey towards inclusivity, particularly for the LGBTQ+ community, has and continues to be fraught with challenges. One significant issue that persists is housing instability and homelessness among LGBTQ+ individuals, which disproportionately affects those in the community. 17% of LGBTQ+ adults and 28% of LGBTQ+ youth have reported experiencing homelessness or housing instability at some point in their lives — and those who did had two to four times the odds of reporting depression, anxiety, self-harm, considering suicide, and attempting suicide compared to those with stable housing — statistics affirming that housing not only changes lives, it keeps people alive.

 

As advocates for housing, it's essential to support and amplify the efforts of organizations dedicated to providing stable housing for those in need. Last week, members of our 2024 Emerging Leaders cohort and WMFHA staff had the privilege of visiting Pride Place in Capitol Hill—an experience that deeply resonated with each of us. Jason Loughridge, WMFHA Staff and coordinator of our tour, shared the importance of spreading awareness and supporting this project, “I understand the particular struggles of the aging LGBTQ+ community. Many members of this age group struggle with inadequate health care, food insecurity and lack of family support. [That's why] bringing awareness of this type of affordable housing to our membership, especially groups like the Emerging Leaders, is so important. For too long there has been a stigma attached to affordable housing programs, and seeing the success of projects such as Pride Place can breakdown stereotypes and show the importance of inclusive housing for all. It’s rare to experience such a profound event where every person participating, all from different walks of life and backgrounds, leaves feeling almost overwhelmingly emotional, inspired and hopeful for the future. I can confidently say that this tour left that kind of impact on all of us who attended. 

 

Says Emerging Leader Sarah Fassett, “It was more than a tour – it was a profound exploration of inclusive property management that left a lasting impression.” Pride Place stands as a pioneering project in the Pacific Northwest, offering affordable housing specifically designed to provide community and a reliable home for LGBTQ+ seniors. Developed and managed by Community Roots Housing in partnership with the nonprofit GenPride, Pride Place not only provides housing, but also hosts an onsite LGBTQ+ senior center. This center offers critical services such as medical care, technology assistance, hot meals, social connections, and more, all tailored to the needs of LGBTQ+ seniors. The combination of housing, healthcare, food, education, and other essential services is a living testament to the true communities Pride Place is building. 

 

Aging in the queer community presents unique challenges. Many of these seniors grew up during a time when social acceptance was scarce, making traditional life milestones, like marriage and having children, exceptionally difficult. Because of this history of prejudice, many face the prospect of aging without familial support, having been estranged due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Moreover, the younger folks in the community often overlook older adults, contributing to feelings of invisibility and isolation. Pride Place addresses these challenges head-on by providing a sense of community and belonging. It's a safe space where LGBTQ+ seniors can connect with peers, create new friendships, and find the support they need. Says Director of Property Management at Community Roots, Sarah Bramson, “This is often the first time in their lives that our LGBTQ+ seniors have felt safe to be their authentic selves in their homes.” During our visit, we witnessed just that; we saw firsthand the joy and love among residents—seniors proudly dressed in vibrant outfits, excited to engage with each other and have complete ownership over their space. Says Libby Hollan Salazar, Emerging Leader, Spaces like Pride Place make me feel optimistic about aging as a queer person. Pride Place is a groundbreaking (literally) project that is bringing affirming housing to LGBTQ+ seniors”. 

 

While housing is a critical first step, the impact of Pride Place extends beyond just physical shelter; it's an incredible example that provides a testament to the crucial importance of inclusive housing solutions. It's a model that not only meets basic housing needs, but also fosters dignity, respect, and a sense of pride in one's identity. As we celebrate Pride Month, it's imperative to recognize that true support for the LGBTQ+ community goes beyond symbolic gestures. It requires real, tangible actions—like advocating for inclusive housing and amplifying the voices of LGBTQ+ individuals. 

 

Pride Month serves as a reminder of the importance of actively supporting and uplifting marginalized communities, ensuring that their needs and voices are heard and respected year-round. It also serves as a reminder that as housing advocates, we need to help showcase organizations who help create community and stability for those in our region who need it. The success of Pride Place demonstrates what is possible when compassion and community collaboration come together to create meaningful change. Community Roots will continue their amazing work, soon to open a new project in conjunction with YouthCare, a nonprofit devoted to ending youth homelessness. This project is aimed at providing housing stability for youth aging out of foster care and will create more than 80 new affordable apartments in the neighborhood, including 28 units exclusively set aside for youth experiencing homelessness.  

 

One attendee, Mackenzie Knell, summarized her experience when walking into the dining hall filled with Pride Place Seniors, “there was palpable ease and joy. Watching them smilingly interact, I found myself wondering, ‘How long have you waited to find this place and feel this free?’ Leaving this transformational experience, I share their boundless gratitude and joy that this place now exists.” For this reason, supporting organizations doing the kind of work that Community Roots, GenPride and YouthCare are doing for housing is key in our efforts to continue expanding inclusive housing initiatives like Pride Place, not only in Seattle but across our region, ensuring that LGBTQ+ individuals and members of other marginalized communities have a stable place to live. Says Emerging Leader, Sarah Fassett, "What stood out most today was the genuine enthusiasm and engagement of [the property management professionals] around me. It was inspiring to see eyes light up and minds open as we discussed the importance of inclusion in property management." 

 

As I reflect on our visit to Pride Place, I’m truly inspired by the resilience and spirit of its residents. They embody the essence of Pride—authenticity, acceptance, and solidarity. Let's continue to work together towards a future where inclusivity, partnership and compassion define our communities and our advocacy efforts. Cheers to many more years of Pride Place shaping the lives of residents and their loved ones. Happy Pride! 

 

How You Can Help

Pride Place and organizations like Community Roots, GenPride and YouthCare rely on the support of volunteers and donors to continue their vital work. Whether you can spare a few hours to volunteer at a GenPride event or a Community Roots site with your team, donate funds to support their programs, or simply spread awareness about the housing needs of LGBTQ+ seniors, your contribution can make a meaningful difference. Through advocacy and support, we can help ensure individuals in need have a place they can call home with pride. 

 

To read more about Community Roots, click HERE. 

To learn more about GenPride, click HERE. 

To learn more about Pride Place, click HERE. 

To learn more about WMFHA’s Emerging Leaders program, click HERE.