Web Analytics Made Easy - Statcounter

Jack's Take: Making a dream a reality

Share this Post:
Courtesy photo
Courtesy photo

In late October, the Capitol Hill community celebrated the long-awaited opening of Pride Place and the GenPride Center with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. This development, built by Community Roots Housing (formerly Capitol Hill Housing), is the Pacific Northwest's first LGBTQIA+-affirming affordable housing complex, featuring 118 studio and one-bedroom apartments owned and operated by Pride Place Project. The nonprofit GenPride will own and operate the 4,500-square-foot ground-floor community center, specifically designed for LGBTQIA+ elders.

While I was unable to attend the ribbon cutting, I first became aware of the project a decade or so ago. As a former director of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce and a resident of the Hill, I had an intimate knowledge of the community's dreams for the future. I remember attending a meeting where Capitol Hill Housing announced plans to build 12th Avenue Arts, affordable housing for artists with performance and community meeting spaces, which opened in late 2014.

During the same time, plans for housing LGBTQIA+ elders were also percolating. GenPride was founded in response to the 2015 University of Washington Aging with Pride Report, which highlighted "pronounced disparities in housing, healthcare, and social support among King County's LGBTQIA+ elders."

Nationwide, many Queer people entering their fifties, sixties, and seventies discover that, when they seek extra care or elder housing, they are met with hostility and forced to go back into the closet. As the report pointed out, many of these elders have experienced distinct, for some harrowing, life experiences, such as survivor's guilt and the trauma of losing friends during the height of the AIDS epidemic.

Courtesy photo  

A need existed to honor our Queer elders with affordable living spaces where they could feel safe and accepted and age in a healthy environment, where they could share their joy, life, and creativity. Thus, Pride Place was born, one of the few Queer elder living spaces in the US outside San Francisco and Los Angeles.

I met the executive director of GenPride, Judy Kinney, at the 85th birthday party of my friend Trudy. At the time, Judy offered to give Trudy and me a tour of GenPride Center and Pride Place. So we visited her on a sunny afternoon in early November to learn what all the fuss was about.

Pride Place is a bright violet building with colorful accents sitting on Broadway between Pike and Pine Streets, looming above one of Capitol Hill's oldest haunts, Neighbours nightclub.

We discovered a sparkling, brand-new complex with a large kitchen, open dining, and meeting area, and small rooms for reading, visiting, meditation, medical care, group consultation, and one-on-one meetings. We met program staff and volunteers, many of whom I happily discovered I knew from my involvement in the community. Everything and everyone seemed to shine.

Judy shared that anyone 55 or older and who satisfies income and household criteria, based on the funding restrictions of the property, can live in Pride Place. (For couples, only one of the pair must meet the age requirement.) The current residents include people from Florida, Everett, Renton, New Hampshire, North Capitol Hill, and Spokane.

As it continues to fundraise, GenPride is getting closer to meeting its capital campaign goal but still welcomes the financial and emotional support of the community. Donations of restaurant-quality dinner plates, silverware, and pots and pans for the brand-new kitchen facility are needed. Funding for furniture, tables, chairs, and couches for the various social areas also would be appreciated. There is a need for volunteers, especially community members who might enjoy cooking a monthly or weekly meal for the GenPride community center.

As Judy shared this beautiful space and talked about its potential, I felt a great deal of pride that Seattle saw a need and stepped up to make the dream a reality. We've created a one-of-a-kind place for our city, where our LGBTQIA+ elders can gather without fear of discrimination or stigma and can feel deeply valued and receive the kind of health and wellness support needed to thrive.

Thanksgiving is a time for giving back and expressing our gratitude. As a kid growing up in Cleveland, I remember how my mom would take me and neighborhood kids door-to-door with a wagon to collect cans of food for the less fortunate during this time of year. We would knock at each house and let our neighbors know about our food drive for the needy. I encourage you to put Pride Place and GenPride Center on your list for giving of your time, treasure, or talent this holiday season. And stop by to see Judy and get a tour of this wonderful new amenity on Capitol Hill!

Jack Hilovsky is an author, actor, and blogger who has made his home in Seattle since 1986. His first book RJ, Farrah and Me: A Young Man's Gay Odyssey from the Inside Out, was published in June 2022. It can be found at Elliott Bay Book Co., Madison Books, Nook & Cranny, and University Bookstore, among other local booksellers.