Dignity House: a vision for lesbian and gay seniors and elder housing for Vancouver

As part of his Master of Social Work, Alex Sangha prepared a draft discussion paper presenting a vision for an affordable housing complex and wellness centre/day program for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and two-spirited (LGBTT) senior citizens and elders in Vancouver. 

On the project's name, Sangha states:

“Words have meaning. They have impact on our thoughts, behaviour, perception, and attitude.  I would like everyone who walks into Dignity House to treat the residents with dignity, compassion, and respect.”   

Dignity House would welcome friends, families, allies, and supporters of LGBTT people. The project is currently in the initial stages. Here is how individuals can help:

Dignity House needs $25,000.00 in seed funding to hire a professional consultant to do a needs assessment and feasibility study for the project.  Tax deductible receipts will be available as Dignity House will be partnering with a non-profit.

Rationale:

There are currently no specific independent affordable housing programs for LGBTT seniors in Vancouver.  Of the subsidized housing that is available to the community at-large, there are long waitlists.  Private market housing is not really an option for low income elders and seniors. Vancouver has high rental costs and low vacancy rates.  Many low income people in Vancouver, including seniors, are essentially being squeezed out of the housing market, especially in the Downtown core and West End.

The concept of Dignity House is not new. Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Chicago, Minneapolis, New York, Denver, Boston, and even Montreal all have or are in the process of studying or developing affordable housing for their LGBTT specific populations.

LGBTT elders and seniors have unique needs.  They have higher rates of depression, substance abuse, and suicide.  They are at high risk of social isolation because they often do not have children or family to support them in their old age.  Many are left to spend their elder years alone.  Some LGBTT seniors have even lost much of their social and support circle to HIV/AIDS.

Many LGBTT elders and seniors are at risk of rejection and discrimination from caregivers, staff, and other residents if they come out in traditional seniors homes and facilities.

It is important to develop a stronger sense of community and connections with other persons from similar backgrounds facing similar life challenges and that is the fundamental concept and vision behind Dignity House.

You can view the draft discussion paper and letters of support for Dignity House on the Dignity House Facebook Group.  Already Health Initiative for Men (HIM), Haro Park Centre, PFLAG Vancouver, and the Progressive Intercultural Community Services (PICS) Society have endorsed the project.  For further inquiries, please contact:

Project Contact:

Alex Sangha
Registered Social Worker

Email:  [email protected]

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