At a restaurant on Federal Highway last week, a group of men gathered to share dinner, swap stories and make new friends.
Hosted by Tuesday’s Angels, a Fort Lauderdale-based non-profit that provides care for people living with HIV, the dinner is a once a month occasion where donors hear a progress report of the organization’s mission.
To start the year, the group heard from Bruce Williams, director of senior services at Pride Center at Equality Park.
Williams didn’t speak much. He let his writing do the talking.
On tables inside Mojo café were copies of Williams’ heartfelt article published in The Advocate Magazine January of last year. In the piece, Williams writes of the struggles many LGBT seniors face in what is supposed to be their “golden years.”
“At 68 years old, having led a responsible and productive life, I find myself living in poverty with the prospects for the final third of my existence only getting worse,” Williams wrote. “I wake up each day only to hope that I will die before my funds and limited resources run out completely. I also find that I am in the company of hundreds of thousands of other LGBTQ seniors who, through no fault of their own, are in the same tragic and inhumane situation.”
On Tuesday mornings Williams can often be found in Pride Center’s building A, overseeing the coffee and conversation program. The weekly two-hour program connects seniors with vital services and offers informative speakers and entertaining guests. Williams has been known to sing a song or two.
Raising spirits and providing laughter goes a long way to ease the pain many of his peers proudly mask.
“The desperate cries for financial assistance and low-income LGBT housing generally fall on deaf ears and I fear this means that today’s LGBT seniors will die off before ground is broken for their new home,” Williams wrote in his Advocate piece.
There is good news as plans are in the works to bring affordable housing to Equality Park. A 48-unit apartment complex is in the early design stages with groundbreaking expected near the end of 2017. Of the 48 units, 34 have been designated for low-income seniors with disabling conditions.
“Broward County has a rapidly-expanding population of aging LGBT adults, and unfortunately, very limited affordable housing options,” said Robert Boo, Pride Center at Equality Park Chief Executive Officer, in a news release. “The Residences at Equality Park, coupled with the Pride Center’s ever-growing seniors programming – the largest LGBT senior program in the nation -- will help give these residents a permanent and safe place to live along with the supportive services they need to stay there.”
Similar projects have been built in San Diego, Chicago, Philadelphia and Los Angeles.
Meanwhile, in two weeks, senior gay men from around the globe will meet in Fort Lauderdale for A Celebration of Friends’ January Jamboree (Jan. 26-29). Proceeds from the weekend affair at Ramada Inn Oakland Park will directly benefit Pride Center’s senior services and Tuesday’s Angels.