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Spring Coalition Meeting
The March 24 Coalition meeting featured Dr. Victor Martinez, Chair of the City of Austin LGBTQ Quality of Life Commission as our guest speaker. Dr. Martinez gave some background information on the Commission:
- Approved by the City Council in 2017 as the fourth Quality of Life Commission for the City of Austin
- Role is to advise the City Council on issues impacting our community
- Consists of 11 members selected by the Mayor and City Council members and 4 members selected by Commission members to achieve appropriate diversity
- Currently considering a recommendation to Council on the 2018-19 City Budget.
The discussion period that followed focused primarily on the prospects for an LGBTQ community center facility. Dr. Martinez reported on a recent presentation by the newly formed Board of the PRIDE organization responsible for the annual PRIDE Festival. There is a separate non-profit that has worked on developing a community center proposal. Currently there is no schedule for City funding for such a facility. In past discussions the completion of a study defining the characteristics and priority issues of the LGBTQ community in Austin was suggested as a prerequisite for consideration of City funding. Such a study is likely to be the primary budget recommendation from the Commission as it was last year.
There was also a discussion of possible visits to LGBTQ community centers in other communities to see what programs and group activities they offer as a way of providing an impetus for Austin groups to design and create programs.
Following the presentation by Dr. Martinez Coalition members discussed progress and strategies for reaching our goals.
Strengthen Our Community: As Dr. Martinez outlined in our Coalition meeting it is unlikely that we will see a city funded LGBT community center facility in the next several years.. A possible interim strategy is to develop alternatives for social opportunities in existing facilities, such as the City’s recreation facilities. In fact one of the ongoing discussion points around a community center is whether a single centrally located facility is the best option given our dispersed population and the transportation challenges.
For the immediate future perhaps the best approach is to focus on the question of what services and activities would Coalition members most like to see if a community center existed. One suggestion for organizing that discussion would be to ask members what types of services and activities they would like to see offered as well as how far they would be willing/able to travel for each type.
Encourage LGBTQ Sensitive Services: A group from the Steering Committee met recently with Patricia Bordie, Executive Director of the Area Agency on Aging (AAA) to discuss the services that agency provides and opportunities for making those more LGBTQ sensitive. AAA’s service area extends beyond the City of Austin to cover nine surrounding counties —which responds to concerns of some Coalition members that live outside the City. Among the services they offer are Navigators who meet with seniors on an individual appointment basis to make them aware of the array of senior services and programs that are available from all level of governments and not for profit organizations. We discussed the LGBT sensitivity training available through SAGE and Patty expressed support for making that available for the Navigators.
The door is open, folks, all we need is some volunteers who would be willing to deliver
the training and lead a discussion afterward on the issues we face as we age.
We have also added links to resources on our website. AGE of Central Texas has recently published an excellent Community Resource Guide, Caregiving in Central Texas. While addressed to senior issues in general the Guide is an up to date listing of health and social service providers. The second resource, AGLSS (Austin Gay Lesbian Senior Services—pronounced “Ageless”) is a service provided by Family Eldercare specifically targeted to LGBT issues.
Both of these resources help to address a concern that is expressed at nearly every meeting of the Coalition —“where can we turn for help?” Please take a look at both of these and remember to pass along our website address, algbtcoa.org, to any of your friends looking for assistance. If you find areas in either that need correction or where additional information is available please let us know.
Support Housing Alternative/Options: There are two current discussions that could have an impact on housing alternatives for the senior community as a whole as well as LGBTQ seniors. The first of these is the ongoing discussion on a new Land Development Code know as Code Next. In a recent presentation to the Commission on Seniors a City representative answered questions about how Code Next would benefit seniors. In response he outlined several ways in which the proposal would increase the stock of affordable housing by providing opportunities for shared housing (the number of unrelated people in a residence, sometimes referred to as the “Golden Girls option”) and increasing the opportunities for auxiliary buildings that could provide housing for senior caretakers or allow seniors a different option for separate living accommodations adjacent to friends or family.
The second discussion concerns proposals to increase City funding for senior housing rehabilitation grants and loans. The current City program makes funds available for senior to make necessary repairs to their homes and/or to retrofit their homes to make them more accessible (ramps, safety railings, etc.). The number of homes in the City in need of repair or modification increases each year as the current level of funding does not meet the demand.
Both of these specific strategies address the ability of seniors to “age in place” which we have heard support for from Coalition members.
Future Coalition Meetings
The folks attending the Spring Coalition meeting also spent some time discussing meeting format and the difficulty in attracting and maintaining a large audience. There were several ideas expressed including:
- The lack of sustained attendance is reflective of a point consistently made since the first focus group meeting: Austin does not have a sense of LGBT community; there is a lack of organization, communication, etc.
- We should make more use of LGBTQ friendly churches. These are organizations that attract an audience once a week for their services and have physical facilities that are largely unused most of the week. The downside of using church facilities was also discussed—the awareness that for some the location of meetings suggested that the Coalition had a specific religious connection.
- Most large turnouts are primarily focused on one-shot events like protest marches, fund raisers or entertainment events.
- There was also a discussion about a variation on the focus group approach— neighborhood focused meetings as a way of building community. This would involve identifying LGBTQ neighborhood groups that already exist and finding a way to create groups where there are none. This would also address the traffic disincentive for attending a function in a single location.
- It was also noted that for all the difficulty in attracting attendance those who came seemed to genuinely enjoy the opportunity to have a discussion on the issues.
We would welcome your suggestions — let us know what you’d be interesting in for future meetings and where you might like to have them.
Rainbow Forum Reminder
The Coalition in combination with Austin Prime Timers sponsors a monthly discussion group on topics selected by the group. The idea of the discussion group is patterned after a similar one associated with the Ft Lauderdale LGBTQ community center there. The Austin group meets in the afternoon on the first Sunday of each month and has a volunteer moderator each month that provides material in advance on the topic chosen. For information on meeting topics and the location each month rsvp to email@example.com.
A couple of weeks ago we sent out an invitation to Coalition members to offer their suggestions on how the City of Austin might support the LGBT community in the next city budget. Here’s a sample of what we received so far:
- To ensure that LGBTQ seniors have safe, affirming care, the City of Austin should provide training in LGBTQ issues to all senior/elder services, including residential centers, agencies, facilities, and programs.
- The City should assist in setting up neighborhood LGBTQ community centers in each of the Council districts. One suggestion would be to use temporarily vacant commercial buildings.
- The Commission should request funding to publicize the input received by the working groups on issues impacting the LGBTQ community in Austin.
If you haven’t responded yet there’s still time to add your suggestion – email to firstname.lastname@example.org
A standing room only crowd gathered for the May 6 meeting of the LGBT Coalition on Aging. The Goals and Objectives that had been developed by the Steering Committee since our last meeting were presented for discussion and approval.
Improving the condition of the LGBT aging community through advocacy, education and programs/services
Richard Bondi presented our first goal:
GOAL # 1: Strengthen Our Community
Create a coordinated LGBT community addressing aging issues that provides opportunities to congregate, exercise political power and create a geographic center
- Coalition reflects the diversity of the community
- Provide representation on City Boards, Commissions and Committees
- Assist in development of community center
- Recruit female and minority seniors
- Secure positions on relevant boards and commissions – a seat at the table
- Work with Pride Foundation on community center and provide senior programming ideas
- Organize periodic Coalition social gatherings to demonstrate the feasibility and the need for senior programming in a future community center and to help build support for the community center
The Coalition approved the goal and added the following Objective:
- Increase recognition of the Coalition and its purpose
And proposed additional strategies:
- Organize a PRIDE event/presence for older participants to increase visibility and establish a more involved role for seniors in the LGBT community
- Create identification for the Coalition for participation in the June Equality March and in PRIDE events
- Conduct intergenerational events
Toby Johnson presented out goal for achieving LGBT friendly services:
GOAL #2: LGBT Sensitive Services
Agencies providing aging services that are sensitive to the LGBT concerns in outreach and service delivery
- Identify the unique aging needs/concerns of LGBT people
- Identify gaps in existing services and what should be done to fill them
- Survey Austin assisted living/nursing facilities on their LGBT awareness/sensitivity
- Develop and deliver a survey of providers starting with living facilities
- Explore options for providing LGBT sensitivity training
- Address identified lack of support group for HIV+ people over 50
The Coalition approved the goals and objectives and suggested additional strategies:
- Gain buy-in from the State Health Department executive committee prior to doing the survey
- Reach out to home health providers in addition to surveying living facilities
- Include policies (eg. inclusive language, outreach) when doing the survey
- Identify champions with agencies providing services
- Utilize the one hour SAGE training as a lead-in to providing training
- Contact the LGBT groups with the City/County Health and Human Services Department for assistance, information on past efforts
- Provide speakers for provider groups
Kathy Bentz presented the recommendation from the Steering Committee on the addition of a third goal on Housing Alternatives. The Coalition approved forming a committee to develop recommendation on this goal along with specific objectives and suggested strategies.
Finally, Fred Lugo presented a recommendation from the Steering Committee that the Coalition should develop an organization framework to include by laws, a definition of the functions of the Coalition and the Steering Committee, and basic processes such as how we receive and spend funds. The Coalition also approved forming a committee to develop recommendations on organization.
At the conclusion of the May 6 meeting there was a short survey. The members present overwhelming supported quarterly meetings of the Coalition as opposed to twice a year; twenty-one of those present indicated that they would likely attend social events sponsored by the Coalition and twenty indicated that they would likely participate in senior living facilities tours set up by the Coalition to increase awareness of the LGBT senior community.
The following committees were organized at the May 6 Coalition meeting. If you are interested in getting involved, contact the chairs listed:
Community: Richard Bondi at email@example.com
Services: Toby Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org
Organization: Fred Lugo at email@example.com
September 10, 2016
- Report from the Organization Subgroup
Proposed mission for the coalition:
Improve the condition of the LGBT aging community through advocacy, education and programs/services.
Proposed structure: Coalition
- Project Identification
- Confirm/amend list of issues
- Prioritize to identify which issues the coalition wants to address first
- Identify potential project(s) for the coalition to implement that addresses priority issue(s)
- appropriate housing in a supportive setting for people with financial security
- appropriate housing in a supportive setting for people with fewer resources, particularly with Austin’s rising property values and cost of living
- the perception by many that assisted living facilities are not accepting of an openly out lifestyle
- agencies providing aging services may not be sensitive to LGBT concerns in their outreach and service delivery
- the increased likelihood that LGBT elders will be isolated with the resulting negative impacts
- no organized LGBT community – no opportunity to congregate, no communication channels no political power no geographic center
- previous experience with medical professionals, particularly with the AIDS crisis, has resulted for some in a lack of trust, fear of disclosure and other barriers to getting medical care
Criteria to consider when prioritizing issues:
Degree of impact
Level of need
Level of gap to meet need
Existing resources available
Visibility of project
Credibility potential of project
Multi-voting prioritization results:
Housing w/ means 3
Housing w/ limited means 12
Assisted living not accepting 18
Agencies’ outreach and programs 58*
No centralized community 96*
Barriers to accessing medical care 2
* Selected as first issues for coalition to address
- Executive Committee formed
Gary, Barry, Richard, Charles (secretary), Lynne (co-chair), Robert (co-chair), Fred, Toby
- EC will meet to scope a project(s) that addresses priority Issues and propose to full group at a subsequent meeting.
- All coalition members will attempt to recruit others to participate with the goal of increasing the diversity of the coalition
Potential tasks to be included in the project plan:
- Publicize the existence and mission of the coalition
- Identify a single person to speak for the coalition
- Identify a chairperson or chairpersons
- Have a coalition member serve on the Austin Up board
- Present to the City Commission on Seniors
- Host or table at an event
- Develop a structure for internal communications
- Reach out to younger LGBT community
- Seek input from community and coalition members