openhouse in San Francisco

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of visiting with Seth Kilbourn, Executive Director of openhouse, in San Francisco.   Openhouse is building housing, services and community programs to support the health and well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) adults.  I am really excited by the work they are doing.

In the late 1990’s the founders of openhouse realized that the LGBT seniors in San Francisco were more isolated than seniors in other populations.   LGBT seniors were less likely to try to access services in the community due to fears of discrimination, thus were growing increasingly isolated and lacking desperately needed assistance.  Openhouse was formed to address this.

They have an entitlement from the City of San Francisco to build an 88-unit affordable housing community in the heart of San Francisco.  The project will include some supportive services for LGBT seniors, and will also engage seniors in the larger community who do not reside on the campus.  While progress on building the community has been slower than hoped, it is still moving forward.

In the interim, openhouse has focused on helping LGBT seniors in the community access services  and on helping other senior services providers build cultural competency in working with the LGBT population.  They work with numerous senior centers in San Francisco to connect the LGBT senior population with service providers who can assist them and do so with awareness and respect.

Additionally, they received a grant to develop cultural competency training for aging services providers.  The development of the training is complete and they have already provided it to a number of the Area Agencies on Aging statewide, and have it available to bring to other aging services providers and communities across the continuum of care.  The training is designed to start conversations and teach staff and management how to talk about, work with and address the needs of LGBT clients and residents.

With an increasingly diverse American population, our ability to meet the needs of  diverse people becomes more and more important.   It’s very exciting to see what openhouse is doing to move forward aging service providers’ ability to effectively and openly meet the needs of the LGBT senior population.  If you are interested in information on the Cultural Competency Training and bringing it to your community and learning more about how to serve LGBT clients and residents, give Seth a call.


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