This article is part of News is Out’s Caring for Community series, which is focused on the challenges and triumphs of giving and receiving care in the LGBTQ+ community. These stories have been created through a strategic partnership.
In 2021, 5.6% or 19 million American adults identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or genderqueer/nonbinary and that number has steadily increased year-to-year (Gallup). The data demonstrates increased need for LGBTQ+ inclusive housing as the population ages. According to the 2022 AARP Dignity Report, “41% of LGBTQ people are concerned about hiding their identity to access suitable housing as they age.” Yet many LGBTQ+ adults do not have accessible, affordable, and welcoming options to live in as they age.
The Executive Director of LGBTQ Senior Housing, Inc., Gretchen Van Ness, shared with AARP the story of Boston’s newest inclusive affordable housing community, The Pryde. The Pryde is being constructed in a historic school building in Hyde Park, becoming the first LGBTQ+-friendly affordable housing for older Americans in New England.
LGBTQ Senior Housing, Inc. is a nonprofit whose mission is “to facilitate access to welcoming, safe, and affordable housing for low-income LGBTQ seniors.” Van Ness explained that the nonprofit’s approach was community oriented as they knocked on doors and said to neighbors, “This is our idea…, what do you think?” In addition, Van Ness and the LGBTQ Senior Housing, Inc. team attended every community meeting and spoke to local business owners to ensure stakeholder buy-in from every angle before moving forward. Understanding stakeholder needs, the team began designing a space.
The Pryde will adapt the former gym into a community center which is, “unheard of in affordable housing,” says Van Ness. This space will be curated for community groups, residents and the LGBTQ+ community to address the need for both an LGBTQ+ Community Center in Boston and a senior center in Hyde Park. The community center will include an arts room, library, exhibition space, outdoor green space, walking area, and a home for the belongings of the 54thRegiment. In addition, the team is currently raising money for an innovative AV system which will allow for virtual engagement. The importance of this component was described by Van Ness, “We get calls and emails from people all over the country reaching out because they seek community.” This will allow The Pryde’s reach to extend beyond Hyde Park.
Van Ness and LGBTQ Senior Housing, Inc. are innovators. Van Ness enthusiastically shared, “We are creating something that has never existed before in Boston and New England. We are following our hearts and we remind ourselves to dream big and then see if we can make it happen. And we want to continue to expand this vision to hopefully have a Pryde 2, a Pryde 3, and a Pryde 4 because the need is everywhere.”
This narrative and others like it are becoming more common as LGBTQ+ welcoming senior living communities pop up across the country from Palm Springs, CA to Fort Meyers, Florida The AARP Livable Communities team is dedicated to ensuring that communities provide safe, walkable streets; age-friendly housing and transportation; access to needed services; and opportunities for residents of all ages to participate in community life. The Pryde in Boston is an emerging LGBTQ-inclusive community, and you can click here to learn about other innovative LGBTQ-inclusive senior housing communities in the U.S.