Homophobia and housing will be discussed during a series of gay seniors’ dialogues planned in the West End in June. But despite attempts to drum up interest in the sessions, organizers say community interest remains low.
The dialogues, which are set to begin June 14, are targeted at seniors aged 55 and over from all areas of the city. But Qmunity Generations community developer Alexandra Henriques says she and her small group of volunteers are having trouble recruiting people even after spending the past month networking and placing posters in the West End to draw participants.
“We’ve got three people out of that,” Henriques reveals. She is hoping to attract eight to 12 seniors by the June 1 deadline to join.
The meetings will consist of four two-hour weekly sessions running until the first week in July. Interested participants are required to attend every meeting. Apart from addressing homophobia and hostility in their living environments, attendees will also learn public speaking skills and get information about various housing resources offered in the city. Information gathered from the sessions will be compiled as a resource guide.
“I have really high hopes for the project,” Henriques says. “I think the outcomes could really be meaningful to help the eldest in the community deal with housing issues.”
The dialogues are part of the Finding Home Initiative, a local organization that helps individuals and communities to foster a sense of belonging and build inclusive communities. The organization’s founder and facilitator, Jessie Sutherland, hopes the queer community will see the importance in participating.
“This is everybody’s issue; we all get older, [and] we might not identify as seniors now but we’re going to, unless we die before then,” Sutherland says.
Vancouver-West End MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert, who will speak at one of the sessions, says there are challenges that gay seniors, in particular, face. He knows some seniors return to the closet, fearing potential homophobia from staff and residents in care facilities.
It’s important to share the knowledge gained fighting for tenants’ rights and housing under the Residential Tenancy Act, Chandra Herbert says.