Building housing for older LGBTQ+ adults in Michigan
Finding safe and affordable housing is a challenge for LGBTQ people, particularly elders, who can face difficulty in securing a permanent place to live. A planned senior home in Ferndale will house older adults who encounter those housing struggles because of their identities.
The Rev. Roland Stringfellow, who proposed the project, said he was inspired by a mixed-use affordable housing development in nearby Detroit that opened in October as a haven for gay and lesbian at-risk youth.
“I have LGBT seniors within my congregation, and I was concerned about their particular stories and challenges around housing,” said Stringfellow, senior pastor of Metropolitan Community Church of Detroit. “There was clearly a need from those people who I currently serve.” Construction is projected to begin in May.
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How much will it cost? The Raymond E. Shepherd House will have 53 one- and two-bedroom affordable apartments in a supportive environment for seniors who make up to 60% of the area median income, according to its developer.
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Rents will range from $441 to $1,060 a month, depending on income, with utilities included. The AMI for the suburban Detroit community of Ferndale is $79,181 a year, according to the 2021 U.S. Census.
Additionally, the Ferndale Housing Commission will allocate eight of its public housing vouchers to Shepherd House. While there is a waiting list for vouchers for anyone who meets the low-income requirements, seniors and those with disabilities are given preference.
“And out of that, we learned that housing was really up at the top,” said LaTosch.
The attendees also told her about the concerns older LGBTQ adults have regarding mistreatment by care providers.
LaTosch formed with other organizations a volunteer-based collaborative to survey older LGBTQ+ adults on what they wanted in housing.
“Some structural elements, some safety elements ... and making sure that it was affordable,” she said. “We talked about safe places to gather inside, outside, around that space.”
They also decided that inclusive health care and case management services would be prerequisites for an LGBT-friendly senior home.
Stringfellow said he hopes that the Shepherd House will be a safe space for LGBTQ+ adults, especially older BIPOC ones, which is why he approached the nonprofit Full Circle Communities to develop the housing development.
The Chicago-based developers built the Ruth Ellis Clairmount Center in Detroit, which inspired Stringfellow’s proposal and search for land.
They eventually found a vacant site in Ferndale to build the Raymond E. Shepherd House.
“There’s going to have community space on the ground level and several units on the first level as well,” said Stringfellow. “And then three floors that will house these units.”
A welcoming environment: The apartments will also be barrier-free and adaptable to meet the physical needs of aging adults and will feature a library, community rooms for residents to spend time and on-site property management.
Full Circle Communities said it also will establish codes of conduct at the housing development to ensure a welcoming atmosphere, giving them the right to evict residents who aren’t respectful or welcoming of their neighbors.
The bottom line: The project will be built on 31,850 square feet of vacant land, and funded with about $13 million from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) and a $700,000 grant from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy.
Cristian Yugsi, project manager for Full Circle Communities, described the development as a partnership between a nonprofit developer and a state agency. The City of Ferndale granted the Shepherd House project 45 years of tax abatements.
Yugsi projects there will be three full-time staff running the facility: a property manager, a service coordinator, and a maintenance coordinator.
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