Philadelphia's 1st gay-friendly senior housing complex opens

PHILADELPHIA - January 2, 2014

Michael Palumbaro is one of the first six tenants to move into the John Anderson Apartments on South 13th Street. Located in the 200 block of South 13th Street, the six-story complex has 56 one-bedroom apartments, a 5,000 square foot courtyard, and a spacious lobby with fireplace.

Michael, who is 70 and suffers from severe arthritis and peripheral neuropathy, is moving from a larger, older home in Northeast Philadelphia.

"So i needed to be in a place without stairs," Michael said. "Safety was a big issue and I was so pleased to see here, for example, in the bathroom there are those bars. So it was built for older people in mind - for safety."

Michael has a great view of the courtyard and fountain, and so does new tenant Jerry Zeft on the floor below. He loves his brand new kitchen.

Jerry tells us, "I mean, I love the coloring of it. It's really, really nice."

Jerry's belongings were supposed to be moved in by his landscaper friends today, but they're too busy preparing area streets for the upcoming snow storm. Still he will be staying here tonight.

"I'm sleeping on an airbed, which is coming later on from my friend downtown at the Kimmel Center, because that's where I work."

Studies show that nearly half of all local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender seniors find it difficult to afford housing, and 13-percent live in unstable environments.

The apartments are named for former city councilman John Anderson, who was instrumental in the city's civil rights bill as the city led the way in so many gay civil rights achievements.

Activist Mark Segal says with all that legislation for equal rights, the first generation of gay citizens in Philadelphia have been neglected.

"If you came out in the 1960's, for the most part you didn't have the support of your family. You couldn't get a decent job," Mark explained. "They're now in their 60's 70's and 80's and they don't have a decent place to live, and we wanted to create an environment so they could live with dignity in their own community, and I hope we've done it."

Segal expects all of the units in the building to be occupied before the official opening of this complex next month.

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