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Federal Government Awards $380,000 Grant for Seniors Services to L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center

(LOS ANGELES), The U.S. Administration on Aging has given the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center an historic three-year grant, valued at $380,000 in the first year, to expand its Seniors Services Department, one of the Center's fastest growing programs. It's the first such award to an LGBT organization.

The much-needed funds will enable the Center to better meet the unique needs of the growing number of LGBT people over the age of 50, many of whom feel lonely or isolated because they are closeted about their sexual orientation or gender identity and because few have the support of children or other family members.

"Studies show that at least two-thirds of gay and lesbian seniors live alone and 90 percent of them have no children to support them," said Lorri L. Jean, chief executive officer of the Center. "The informal caregiving that families provide is frequently not there for these seniors. That's why the Center's services for LGBT seniors are so important and why we're so grateful the federal government is supporting us in serving this population."

The funds will help the Center enable LGBT seniors to remain in their homes as they age, without relocating to an assisted-living facility or nursing home, by accessing a variety of support services that are LGBT-sensitive. The grant will also fund the addition of two new staff people, including a case manager.

"We're seeing a growing demand for services by LGBT seniors as the Baby Boomers hit retirement age,'' said Arielle Rosen, director of the Center's Senior Services Department. "Most LGBT seniors don't feel comfortable at traditional senior centers and come to us for support and assistance. More and more of them are finding it difficult to pay their bills, and some are even at risk of being homeless after losing their lifelong partner, along with his or her Social Security benefits."

Alice, 73, recently contacted the Center in distress after the death of her partner of more than 40 years. She was facing imminent eviction because, without the couple's combined Social Security benefits, she could no longer afford to maintain their residence. Because the federal government does not recognize same-sex relationships, there are no benefits for the surviving spouse.

Without these survivor benefits - something heterosexual seniors take for granted - many LGBT seniors must scramble to make ends meet at a time when they're emotionally vulnerable and most in need. Fortunately for Alice, the Center was able to help her find a new home and she has become an active participant in the Center's grief and loss support group.

"For many years, the LGBT community's programs for our elders have been ignored and shut out by federal funders," said Michael Adams, executive director of Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE). "It's a major breakthrough for the Obama Administration to right that wrong as a matter of policy and take an important step forward in recognizing the needs of LGBT older adults."

The Center's Senior Services Department provides a full slate of activities to enrich the lives and address the needs of LGBT seniors, including support groups, dinners, cultural excursions and weekly exercise, writing computer and art classes. The department also refers seniors to other Center services such as counseling, legal services and self-enrichment courses.

The Center is uniquely situated to provide these services, given the large population of LGBT seniors in Los Angeles and the Center's proximity to Triangle Square, built and operated by Gay & Lesbian Elder Housing as the nation's first affordable housing facility for LGBT seniors.