Thanking our supporters

Published by Mark Segal in the Philadelphia Gay News on October 7, 2010.

No doubt by now you’ve seen or heard about the proposed LGBT-friendly, affordable senior housing project that I’ve been involved with. And this past Monday, we had a major victory. For the first time in our commonwealth’s history, a capitol project that benefits our community was appropriated in legislation that passed the Pennsylvania Senate, was ratified by the House and was sent to the governor for his signature.

The amount was $7 million, but that’s not the whole story. The funds are matching, meaning you must have another source to match those given under this allocation. Like almost every other senior project of this nature, you apply for funds from various sources to match.

That is the short story, but it’s one step on this road that we’re all traveling, or as I like to say: It’s just one more brick on the building, and we have many more bricks until the building’s complete.

But to get this far, you need friends, people who really support this community. You also need political leadership, courage and a vision. We’ve been very lucky in that area.

First up to bat was Gov. Rendell. He’s been onboard for over a year. He was the first to commit funds. He even laid out the plan for us, and assured us if we went his route, which we did, he’d be able to get us what we need. Thanks to him, we’re a week ahead of schedule.

Next was the state House of Representatives. There, our city’s delegation and the Democratic leadership came through. But a special thanks has to go to the man who literally shepherded this project through the House, state Rep. Mike O’Brien. When I say shepherd, I guess I mean taking me from one office to another and knowing when to get me out of those offices. If you read this column, you’ve read about my trips to Harrisburg. Each and every one of those was at the suggestion of Mike.

Mike took an instant interest in this project from the moment he heard about it. He already had an interest in senior services, but when he learned about the special needs, discrimination and abuse of LGBT seniors and the lack of any facility, something clicked in him and it became his passion. He was there night and day, seven days a week.

He accomplished something that was almost unthinkable. Almost every elected official he and I approached on this project not only supports it, they have enthusiasm for it. How do I know this? On several occasions, I somehow thought that pivotal people were becoming soft on its funding. They made sure they got me on the phone and told me personally of their reconfirmed support, or called to express anger at a call they received that was not supportive. It’s the first time I’ve seen the Philadelphia Democratic Party completely go to bat for an LGBT project. Let me amend that. It’s the first time I’ve seen almost every elected official in Philadelphia adopt an LGBT project as their own. This is their baby, not just ours. There is much more that could be included here and many more heroes that can be pointed out — you can be sure that over the next few months they will. But at this moment, a moment in American history that is so negative, let’s just stop and thank those who won’t give in to the negative but rather have a vision of a brighter future — one that includes our LGBT elders.