LGBT Latinos face housing, isolation worries in SF
By Matthew S. Bajko
"Many people come here and become more isolated because they are living on their own," said Jorge Rodriguez, 69, a gay man who served on the city's LGBT Aging Policy Task Force. "When you live on your own, especially if you come from another country, I think it is much harder."
Rodriguez retired last year from the Mission Neighborhood Health Center, where he worked as a case manager for its HIV/AIDS Clinica Esperanza. He now spends his time volunteering at the AIDS Legal Referral Panel assisting immigrants seeking political asylum in the U.S.
"I am a lucky guy. I have my family and friends," said Rodriguez, who is single. "I am retired and lucky to be living here at a time when everything is expensive."
While homeownership is lacking in general among San Francisco's LGBT seniors, Hispanic older LGBT adults are even less likely to own their own home in the city than their counterparts.
That was one of the findings included in "Addressing the Needs of LGBT Older Adults in San Francisco: Recommendations for the Future," a report based on a survey conducted in 2013 for the city's LGBT Aging Policy Task Force, which finished its work last week.
Of the 616 LGBT city residents aged 60 to 92 years old who took part in the survey, 7 percent were Latino or Hispanic. Released last summer, the survey results found that a majority, 59 percent, of all respondents either lives in rental housing, nursing homes, or for free with family or friends. The remaining 41 percent lived in homes they owned outright or were continuing to pay off their mortgages.
It did not break out the homeownership statistics by race. But the report did note that the 45 Hispanic or Latino/a respondents to the survey were "the most likely to cite rising crime rates as the reason they might have to move out of their current housing situation."
The report, overseen by lesbian lead researcher Karen I. Fredriksen-Goldsen, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Washington and director of the Institute for Multigenerational Health, also concluded that the survey's LGBT Hispanic participants were the "least likely to turn to a partner or spouse for social support" when confronted with elder abuse or discrimination.
LGBT Hispanics, along with African American seniors, are also less likely to be out of the closet than non-Hispanic white older adults, according to the survey results.
Another finding from the survey was that the LGBT Hispanic respondents had the highest rate of living with HIV or AIDS. They were also more likely to utilize community health centers than non-Hispanic whites.
For Rodriguez, who is credited with overseeing the aging policy task force's successful outreach efforts to recruit LGBT Latinos to take the survey, the main lesson he derives from the findings is that housing is the number one concern facing LGBT Latino older adults in San Francisco.
"I would say, and this will cover any aging group no matter gay or straight, it has to do with housing. Housing to me is the main subject here," said Rodriguez, who served on the task force's housing subcommittee.
Housing and social isolation is a nationwide concern when it comes to the country's older LGBT Latino population. So found a report released in December, called "In Their Own Words: A Needs Assessment of Hispanic LGBT Older Adults," by Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Elders, or SAGE for short, the National Hispanic Council on Aging, and the Diverse Elders Coalition.
"The fact that many LGBT Hispanic older adults report both that they suffer from multiple layers of discrimination and that they cannot count on their communities and those who should be closest to them for support is particularly troubling and worthy of substantial attention," wrote SAGE Executive Director Michael Adams in the foreword to the report.
One of the main findings in the assessment was that due to a "dearth of research about Hispanic LGBT older adults," policymakers across the country do not adequately understand the needs of this population.
It is unclear exactly how many LGBT Latino seniors there are. Demographers estimate that the national LGBT senior population overall will number 3 million by 2050. In San Francisco, it is believed that upwards of 20,000 LGBT seniors are currently living in the city.
Were it not for his living in an affordable housing unit in a Duboce Triangle development, Rodriquez doubts he would still be a San Francisco resident.
"I lived in Noe Valley and in Oakland prior to here. Without this program I could not afford to live in San Francisco as a senior," he said. "We need more housing like this one."
Matthew S. Bajko wrote this article through the MetLife Foundation Journalists in Aging Fellowships, a program of New America Media and the Gerontological Society of America.