LGBT aging panelseeks tech support
by Matthew S. Bajko
Knowing some of its recommendations come with high price tags, a San Francisco panel focused on LGBT aging issues is seeking financial support from the city's growing tech sector.
Members of the LGBT Aging Policy Task Force voted this week to add language to its report that calls on technology firms to consider funding some of its proposals. The panel is set to vote on its report March 25 and the gay members of the Board of Supervisors are expected to introduce legislation to implement its ideas in early April.
As the Bay Area Reporter noted in a story last week, one of the main issues tackled in the report is housing for LGBT seniors and ensuring they can remain in San Francisco as they age. To meet that objective, the panel is strongly urging the city to build more affordable housing for LGBT seniors.
Two of the proposals to accomplish that goal are to have the SF Land Trust create an LGBT senior housing co-op and for the city to build 200 very low-income units in the Castro area for LGBT seniors with incomes less than 30 percent of the area median income.
Both ideas, however, will require substantial amounts of money. Thus, the panel members are asking leaders of technology firms to consider footing the bill.
"Tech companies should help fund these recommendations," said task force member Jorge Rodriquez, a retired case manager for HIV Clinica Esperanza.
Added task force member L. Michael Costa, a health policy professional, "the people who write checks in the tech community may be interested in certain areas to support."
Other task force members said the recommendation should not be limited to the city's technology sector and pushed to broaden it to include foundations and the business community in general.
"Corporations don't place senior funding in their bailiwick," said task force member Ashley McCumber, a gay man who is executive director of Meals on Wheels of San Francisco Inc. "This needs to change in general. We as a society need to invest in senior services."
Task force member Larry Saxxon, a member of the state AARP executive council and the San Francisco Human Rights Commission's LGBT advisory committee, noted that investment in the panel's proposals would not only benefit LGBT seniors but all seniors living in the city.
"Anything you do for the LGBTQ community is going to benefit the aging community at large," said Saxxon. "It's a problem with America in how America perceives getting old. It is seen as a negative. There is something wrong with how America sees aging."
The panel's recommendations make "the whole city a more livable city," added task force member Marcy Adelman, Ph.D., who helped found the LGBT senior services agency Openhouse.
The task force's ask of business and philanthropic leaders to increase giving toward the city's aging population comes as the tech sector, in particular, is under attack by housing rights activists who blame it for causing housing prices and rents to soar in San Francisco.
Protests blocking buses for companies such as Google, Facebook, and Apple have garnered international media attention as a symbol of the tensions between expanding the local economy while not pushing out longtime residents who find they can no longer afford to live in San Francisco or the wider Bay Area region.
In response to the growing debate, tech leaders in recent weeks have announced plans to increase their giving to various causes. Google has pledged $6.8 million over the next two years toward paying for free Muni rides for youth from working-class families.
Last week Salesforce chief executive Marc Benioff announced a new initiative, called SF Gives, aimed at raising $10 million within two months from tech firms for Bay Area antipoverty programs through a joint effort with the nonprofit the Tipping Point.
And Ron Conway, a venture capitalist who founded the nonprofit San Francisco Citizens Initiative for Technology and Innovation, or sf.citi for short, made headlines in February for a speech during a tech awards show in which he said his "message tonight is that we – that means all of us – must be leaders in tackling the challenges of housing, transportation, and education."
Days after the Crunchies event housing rights activist Tommi Avicolli Mecca, who chaired the LGBT aging panel's housing work group, approached Conway to suggest he help raise $1 billion for the SF Land Trust to buy several multi-unit rental buildings in order to "make them affordable forever."
To his surprise, Mecca said Conway responded positively about the SF Land Trust model.
"These people are hearing the proposals we have been saying," Mecca told his fellow task force members during their meeting Tuesday, March 11. "The more times you folks take on this, we may be surprised at the outcome."
The LGBT aging panel's full draft report can be downloaded at http://sf-hrc.org/lgbt-aging-policy-task-force-lgbtaptf.