Senior center project takes next step

Published by Jen Colletta in the Philadelphia Gay News on September 16, 2010. 

Organizers of the city’s proposed LGBT senior housing project filed their first application for funding last week.

The Dr. Magnus Hirschfield Fund, which is spearheading the project, submitted the proposal to the city’s Office of Housing and Community Development Sept. 10.

OHCD spokesperson Paul Chrystie said the agency received about 20 filings in response to its request for proposals for affordable rental-house development.

Several of the proposals could be selected to share the $8.5-million funds available through the program.

The $20-million LGBT project would establish the nation’s second housing complex for low-income LGBT seniors in the building adjoining the William Way LGBT Community Center.

Chrystie said the approval process consists of an inter-agency review, incorporating representatives of several city departments who will then make recommendations for selection to OHCD.

Accompanying the OHCD proposal were letters of support from U.S. Sen. Bob Casey and U.S. Rep. Bob Brady (D-Pa.).

“I’m pleased to see that this project continues to move forward and am doing what I can to help,” Casey said. “There is a true need for safe and supportive housing for older Philadelphians in the LGBT community. This project can be a major step toward filling that need.”

Karen Warrington, Brady’s communications director, said the congressman believes “the housing project is important because the LGBT community’s need for affordable housing has long been ignored.”

Warrington said Brady is working to release an additional $1.5 million in federal stimulus funds for the project.

The initiative has also seen support from city and state elected officials.

First District City Councilman Frank DiCicco, whose territory encompasses the Gayborhod, said the project can have far-reaching effects, even beyond the LGBT community.

“I’ve been behind this from day one,” DiCicco said. “People who happen to be gay are in need of and entitled to the same benefits that other seniors are, with housing in particular. This can keep people in our city, which continues to contribute to our tax base, and it’s a great opportunity not only for the community but for the city because this again puts us out there in the national spotlight as a gay-friendly city. It’s a wonderful opportunity to showcase our willingness and acceptance of the gay community.”

State Sen. Larry Farnese (D-1st Dist.), who also represents the area encompassing the center, said the project would be a welcome and needed addition to the district and the LGBT community.

“I wholeheartedly support this long-overdue project, and I am pleased that it is in my district,” Farnese said. “It addresses an important concern within the LGBT community, and it has my full support.”

The project also made some organizational progress this week, with the formation of the Community Leadership Advisory Board.

The board includes Micah Mahjoubian, who will also serve as the project’s director of community and government relations; Nurit Shein, Franny Price, Carrie Jacobs, Perry Monastero, Andy Chirls, Romy Diaz, David Fair, Paul Steinke, Jeff Goldman, Bill Wood, Lynn Zeitlin, Richard Keaveney, Brian Sims, Stephen Glassman, Steve Carlino, Michael Byrne, Richard Bond, the Rev. Jeffrey Jordan, Abbe Fletman, Ken Oakes, Dr. Marla Gold, Heshie Zinman, Tami Sortman, Bill Gehrman, ’Dolph Ward Goldenburg, Marty Sellers, Adah Bush and the Rev. James Littrell.

“We are honored and overwhelmed at the support this proposed project has received as represented by those willing to attach their names to the project,” said Hirschfield Fund president and PGN publisher Mark Segal. “Together, we hope to give voice to a disenfranchised part of our community. The Community Leadership Board is still in formation but, thus far, leadership and pride in our community is in clear view.”