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Affinities: Pioneers in Residence

Decades after leaving often unsupportive families to settle in S.F., LGBTQ seniors vie for spots in affordable senior housing.


Mona Lisa Beinfest

(1 of 8)

Raoul Jackson

(2 of 8)

 Leonard Maran

(3 of 8)

Joseph Warren

(4 of 8)

Larry Burnett

(5 of 8)

Rufus Harris

(6 of 8)

Kaye Griffin

(7 of 8)

Bill Nelson

(8 of 8)


Editor's note: This is one of many stories about LGBTQ life in the Bay Area that San Francisco is publishing over the next month, all part of the June 2016 Pride Issue. To peruse the rest of the issue's contents, and to read stories as they become available online, click here.

See all the Affinities photo shoots here.

“In the ’60s
, many LGBT people said sayonara to their biological families who didn’t accept them and flocked to San Francisco to make a home,” says Joel Evans, the director of development for Openhouse, a nonprofit that provides services to LGBTQ seniors. “They’re our heroes and our pioneers—so what are we going to do now that they’re in their 70s, 80s, and 90s?”

Most of the seniors pictured here are vying for a place at Openhouse Community, a new affordable housing development at 55 Laguna Street in Hayes Valley. Whether they’ll be among the lucky few to land one of the building’s $800 studios or $1,100 one-bedrooms—which will be awarded via lottery—is a question that vexes each of them. Openhouse expects to receive thousands of applications for just 31 available units; an additional 8 will be devoted to chronically homeless seniors living with HIV/AIDS.

It’s the social aspect of the building—the planned writing workshops, movie matinees, opera outings, and language lessons—that led Bill Nelson, 70, to throw his hat into the ring. He’s hoping to join a men’s support group, maybe take some classes. “I think I might be interested in learning Spanish,” he says.

Though each person’s odds of winning a spot in the residence are slim, Evans has been prepping as many eligible LGBTQ seniors as possible for the lottery in the hopes that 55 Laguna will be a model for future city developments. “This lottery should not be seen as an end,” he says. “It’s just one step on the ladder towards planning your future.”


Originally published in the June issue of San Francisco

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