Yesterday saw me heading out to Laguna Street to meet with Duff Axsom (coolest name – ever!) and various colleagues to better understand the work that OpenHouse do. My understanding is that OpenHouse has been running for 20+ years and started as a housing support organisation for the LGBT+ community. Since then it has grown and broadened its support to include more direct support services and community programmes.
OpenHouse has 39 apartments onsite and is in the process of building a further 79 apartments. The waiting list is in the hundreds and currently closed. The need for affordable housing is evident in San Francisco. I heard accounts of how the lack of affordable housing meant that it was almost impossible for those who have moved away from San Fran hoping to move back. It also means that selling up and downsizing is not an easy option so people are encouraged to keep their own homes for as long as possible. San Francisco has some really beautiful buildings but it is not an easy place to be if you have mobility problems or frailty. Often old apartment blocks either don’t have a lift or it frequently breaks down. OpenHouse offer a volunteer befriending service to alleviate the isolation felt by some people.
OpenHouse has a broad remit, I saw a support group in action to help people who struggled to de-clutter their homes, I heard about cultural humility training, the support group for people who care for somone with a dementia, health and wellbeing support and how residents are encouraged to host groups too.
It was an absolute joy to meet and talk with Amy, Sylvia, Manuel, Duff, Jess, Ariel and Michelle. Each person was very generous with their time and influenced and informed my thinking. I am delighted that a new programme called ‘Embracing sexuality in older age’ (or something similar, sorry if I haven’t quite remembered the title) is being rolled out in a couple of weeks. I’m hoping to keep in touch with OpenHouse to see how that programme is received, but it sounds like it’s going to be popular 🙂
I am very grateful to Duff for organising my day. I had great conversations with everyone and was made to feel very welcome. I definitely feel more at home in more subversive environments 🙂 Thank you OpenHouse x
Today I headed off to the Financial district to meet with the Alzheimer’s Association to speak about their LGBT Dementia Care Project. We had an interesting discussion about how to access and engage with organisations. I found out that there is mandatory dementia training in SF which must be undertaken before and after staff have started working with people with a diagnosis. Apparently, in SF you need 400 hours of training before you are allowed to work in a nail bar, but you can care with someone with dementia after only 4-5 hours training. Good to know that the issues around getting staff released for training is just as difficult here as at home. Looking forward to attending the training tomorrow at OpenHouse. Tiring but great couple of days.