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    Openhouse Is Not What You Think It Is

     

     

     

    By Michelle Alcedo

    Openhouse is not what you think it is. It’s so much more. At Openhouse, we center the voices, experiences and histories of LGBTQ older adults. Our people were the first to be proud and we are still proud!

    As we near the opening of our second building at 75/95 Laguna St., we are thrilled to announce San Francisco’s first LGBTQ-welcoming affordable senior housing with a 7,000 sq. ft. activity center. Inspired by our queer older adult community members and leaders who paved the way, we hope our activity center will become the home of the revolution to queer aging—to shape a truly interdependent and intergenerational future where we can all live, thrive and age with dignity.

    Openhouse isn’t your typical senior center and we aren’t your typical seniors! Over 20,000 LGBTQ people age 60 and older live in San Francisco. Openhouse exists to support, love and listen to our older adults, in the vision of a thriving multigenerational LGBTQ community. Our programs are diverse and ever-evolving, just like the community we serve.

    The Resource Navigation and Referrals Program increases access to critical healthcare, housing and other support services for older queer adults through one-on-one meetings and advocacy.

    Openhouse’s Friendly Visitor Program matches volunteers with LGBTQ older adults who are more isolated, to build mutual companionship and offer emotional support through biweekly home visits. Our older community members made history and now younger LGBTQ folks want to be part of the legacy. Through this program, we honor each other’s fierceness and vulnerability, and we affirm the beauty and wisdom in being exactly who we are, at every age.

    Lifelong Learning opportunities at Openhouse range from Italian and Yiddish language classes to computer literacy and using Smartphones. “I’m having the time of my life!” exclaims 73-year-old Armando Paone, Openhouse’s Education Coordinator. Paone himself speaks nine languages and shares, “Here, I get to teach the way I want to teach and it’s liberating!” Members of our Queer Elders Writers Group, led by Luis De La Garza, are working to publish their memoires.

    Our Meal Discussion Group’s Rainbow Lunch, Trans Elder Lunch, Sister Circle and Men’s Social bring our people together to make new friends in a spirited and welcoming space. Breaking bread and building community is a tradition we all enjoy.

    Openhouse works to create a safer place for all LGBTQ older adults. The popular notion of “successful aging” often relies on a notion of independence, which in truth, creates isolation and disconnection from one another’s brilliance, wisdom, support and love. But if our LGBTQ history has taught us anything, it is that we are our most powerful when we come together as a community to care for our own. Aging is no different.

    Openhouse believes in the power of interdependence, and the importance of giving and receiving mutual support. We envision intergenerational chosen family that holds sacred the histories of our peoples, our vulnerabilities, our contributions and our authentic, joyous, revolutionary love for one another.

    Michelle Alcedo is the Director of Programs at Openhouse.

     


    Openhouse: 6 Ways to Get Involved

    Volunteer: Bring a group to volunteer at Openhouse’s LGBTQ Community lunches. Friends, work colleagues, your chosen family or even a group of neighbors—get together to connect and support Openhouse.

    Become a Friendly Visitor: Those who volunteer as a friendly visitor for Openhouse’s Friendly Visitor Program serve the critical role of re-engaging LGBTQ seniors who have become isolated from our community. When you show up, these seniors begin to believe that they matter. For more info, contact Sylvia Vargas (sylvia@openhouse-sf.org; 415-659-8123).

    Refer: Help Openhouse to reach more LGBTQ seniors by increasing the nonprofit’s visibility. Simply reminding others of this vital community resource is important.

    Recommend: Recommend Openhouse to a senior you know! Share the organization’s news on social media.

    Support Openhouse’s Services: If you would like to make a donation to Openhouse, please visit

    ( https://www.openhouse-sf.org/donation ) or text FLING to 41 444. Other ways to raise funds—ask friends to donate on your birthday, or host a fundraiser on Facebook. Every donation counts and goes to help up reach more LGBTQ seniors.

    Connect: Follow Openhouse online (@OpenhouseSF) to keep up with the latest announcements about programs and upcoming events.

     


    Gilead Sciences and Openhouse Partner to Raise Awareness of HIV Long-Term Survivors

    While there are more than 60 AIDS Memorials throughout the country for those we have lost to the epidemic, there are no extant tributes to the resilience and strength of HIV long-term survivors. On Sunday, April 7, Gilead Sciences, Inc., and Openhouse will honor the first HIV-positive generation who defied social stigma and survived death-sentence diagnoses in the 1990s, but whose life experiences and ongoing medical needs have been lost in the current race for a cure.

    Serving as Presenting Sponsor of Spring Fling, Openhouse’s annual gala event, Gilead will be on hand to honor this year’s Openhouse Trailblazer Award winner Ronald S. Johnson, who retired in 2017 after a distinguished career in HIV/AIDS advocacy and activism. Most recently, Johnson served as Vice President of Policy and Advocacy at AIDS United, where he continues to consult as a Senior Policy Fellow.

    “The first and foremost reason I remain in HIV work is because I am a person living with HIV,” Johnson said. “But I also remain involved because HIV/AIDS continues to be a major health crisis here in the U.S. and around the world.”

    In addition to presenting this year’s Spring Fling gala, Gilead recently provided a capital grant of $250,000 to help build the new Openhouse Community Center opening this summer at 75 Laguna Street, next door to the organization’s headquarters at 65 Laguna. Part of this expansion grant includes funding for a Lasting Tribute to HIV long-term survivors in the central staircase of the two-story facility.

    “Thanks to Gilead, Openhouse is building a Living Wall & Mural to honor HIV long-term survivors,” said Openhouse Executive Director Dr. Karyn Skultety. “This permanent art installation will be the physical and emotional centerpiece not only for our new community center but for an initiative to bring more HIV long-term survivors out of isolation and into a meaningful relationship with the community.”

    Led by a steering committee of community leaders and long-term survivors, the Lasting Tribute Project officially will launch on June 5—HIV Long-Term Survivors Awareness Day—with the announcement of mural finalists who live with HIV or whose lives the epidemic has changed dramatically. The steering committee, whose members will be recognized at Spring Fling, will select the muralist this summer and plan a public commemoration ceremony for the Living Wall & Mural this fall.

    “Comprehensive programs for aging people living with HIV (PLWH) are essential to reducing to comorbidities they face, including those with limited access to quality healthcare,” said Gregg Alton, Chief Patient Officer at Gilead Sciences. “Through our continued partnership with Openhouse, we aim to have a long-term impact on the overall health and well-being of PLWH, as well as to increase their quality of life.”

    More than half of people living with HIV in the United Sates are over 50, currently at 60%, according to UNAIDS; that number is expected to reach 70% in two years. Surviving HIV/AIDS was unheard of until the discovery of highly effective antiretroviral therapy (HARRT) beginning in 1996, with the introduction of protease inhibitors. These “miracle” drugs reversed the pandemic, and most people with HIV can now expect to live long lives. Since 1987, the first year HIV was listed officially as a cause of death, more than a half-million people have succumbed to AIDS. With the advent of HARRT, the number of long-term survivors of HIV has reached 1.3 million. Over a quarter of this population was diagnosed before 1996.

    “Our partnership with Gilead is an important milestone in Openhouse’s response to the health crisis and remaining stigma suffered by HIV long-term survivors,” said Dr. Skultety. “Outreach to transgender persons living with HIV and survivors of color is especially critical because they are more likely than white gay men to keep silent about their HIV status. We must address the social isolation and healthcare disparities still suffered disproportionately by these long-term survivors in San Francisco. The Living Wall and Mural will be the centerpiece of a new awareness and appreciation for aging well with HIV.”

    More than 400 guests are expected to attend this year’s Spring Fling Brunch and Tea Dance.