For seniors who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, retiring can often lead to uncomfortable scenarios.
A new residential assisted living home in Oberlin aims to make LGBTQ community members comfortable by housing like-minded people together.
Rainbow Steps, 345 North Professor St., is a communal living space that caters specifically to the LGBTQ community. It’s the first of its kind in Northeastern Ohio, said CEO Danielle Hayduk.
She said members of the LGBTQ population face the normal challenges of aging. They also must cope with a legacy of discrimination and homophobia that often makes finding safe housing difficult.
They face some lonely challenges at retirement communities and nursing facilities, ranging from ignorance and exclusion to outright homophobia. LGBTQ elders may find that their only survival solution is to go back into the closet, Hayduk said.
“Those around them are the same people they felt the need to hide from earlier in their lives,” she said.
Of the nation’s 76 million baby boomers, as many as four million are LGBTQ retirees, according to the Administration on Aging, an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services. By 2030, that estimate is expected to nearly double.
The duplex on North Professor Street is “a house that has been turned into a community,” which Hayduk said is necessary in the LGBTQ community. In mainstream retirement facilities, residents may struggle to find a common thread, but people in the LGBTQ community shared a sense of unity in their struggle and in their culture.
“When I go to networking events and I stand up and I say what I’m doing, I’ll look around the room as I’m presenting and I’ll see people start crying,” Hayduk said.
Rainbow Steps’ Oberlin facility can house 10 people. Rental cost starts at $1,500 per month and includes meals prepared by a private chef, housekeeping, laundry services, and in-house activities and assistance.
Hudak is looking to hire seven local and gay-friendly employees.
She has plans of opening 12 residential living homes in the Greater Cleveland area in the next two years.
“Oberlin is such a place of firsts. There are so many firsts that have happened here that are significant in everybody’s culture,” Hayduk said. Selecting Oberlin to kick-start her journey was a no-brainer, she said.
Laurie Hamame can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @HamameNews on Twitter.