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San Diego low-income apartment project geared to LGBT seniors

San Diego low-income apartment project geared to LGBT seniors
"This project is a first step," Councilman Todd Gloria said of the apartment complex. Above, Gloria in Balboa Park in December 2013. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

A nonprofit group is preparing to build San Diego's first low-income apartment complex geared toward senior citizens who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

When the 76-unit facility opens in the North Park neighborhood, the city will join Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco in providing such housing — which is considered crucial because members of the LGBT community often feel unwelcome in more traditional senior settings.

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"The people who will live here paved the way for younger LGBT generations, and many of them are forced back into the closet … because of a lack of acceptance" from fellow seniors, said Delores Jacobs, chief executive of the San Diego LGBT Community Center.

The $27-million complex will be open to all senior citizens, but Community HousingWorks hopes to encourage LGBT seniors to move in by creating a welcoming environment — including having on-site supportive services coordinated by the community center.

"Many people are going to benefit from relief from isolation, depression and anxiety, and find that moments in their last days can be full of compassion and warmth," said Robert Bettinger, 87, who is gay. "I'm happy for the many people who will go forward in hope, safety and comfort."

A 2013 Pew Research poll found that 50% of baby boomers consider homosexuality acceptable, compared to 63% of Gen Xers and 71% of millennials.

"This project is a first step," Councilman Todd Gloria said. "Our goal must be that all senior housing options become open and affirming."

The City Council unanimously approved the complex on Tuesday and agreed to join with the San Diego Housing Commission to cover $7 million of its cost.

Garrick writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune

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