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One Roof Chicago LGBTQ+ centered intergenerational community in planning stages, announces new executive director
by Carrie Maxwell
2023-04-23

This article shared 2703 times since Sun Apr 23, 2023
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When One Roof Chicago (ORC) founder Pamela Calvert, a then-newcomer to Chicago, was researching senior living options for her wife and herself, both elder orphans with no close family ties in the area, she was looking for both long-term security and a diverse urban community.

Calvert was already aware of the oncoming Baby Boomer "gray tsunami," of which she is a member, as well as the acute labor shortage in all areas of elder care, through her previous work as a board member of a small mission-driven senior community in northern California.

While doing her research, Calvert also attended a fundraiser for unhoused queer youth sponsored by several Chicagoland organizations.

"The stories I heard that night just ripped my heart out," said Calvert. "These were such good kids that any parent should be so proud of, and instead they had been thrown out of their homes. I could not get them out of my mind.

"One day I was walking down the street, thinking about all this, and just asking myself 'okay, who do I want to get old with,' and I thought, well, with my queer people, of course. Then I thought about the youth, what they needed, and job training, and all of a sudden everything just connected."

Calvert consulted with a number of local advocates, among them Windy City Times Co-Founder and Owner Tracy Baim; Pride Action Tank Executive Director and AIDS Foundation of Chicago Policy and Advocacy Operations Senior Director Kim Hunt; Project Fierce Board Member and The Care Plan Founder Jacqueline Boyd; as well as now-Illinois Department of Human Rights Director Jim Bennett. Boyd and Hunt serve on ORC's board, with Boyd serving as co-chair.

ORC—with a mission establishing an intergenerational model of living—was incorporated as a non-profit in January 2019.

The ORC board agreed early on that this new welcoming and inclusive mixed income LGBTQ+ intergenerational community for older adults, including both those living with HIV and young people impacted by homelessness, would be located on either the South and West Sides of Chicago; their search ultimately focused on the Bronzeville neighborhood due to its amenities, resources and rich history of African American LGBTQ+ life in that part of the city.

The community will also include, according to ORC's website, "focused job training in culturally competent senior care and a career ladder in a rapidly growing sector of the economy. At the core of the project is the home, a place where LGBTQ+ older adults can age in safety, comfort and with the knowledge that they are accepted and celebrated. LGBTQ+ young people likewise will have the security of their own space with resources and mentorship available to make their goals a reality."

"It was as if Pam and I had met back in 1990 and had this discussion," said ORC Board Co-Chair Shelton R. Watson. "I watched many of my friends isolate during the AIDS pandemic, and some of them died alone. I had a circle of friends [who] socialized together often and thought to myself, 'It would be great if those of us who were single and estranged from our families could buy a building and each have our own apartment yet share a common space.' I shared the idea with friends and everyone thought it was a great idea, however we never moved forward with it.

"Fast forward to 2020 and now we are facing the COVID pandemic and [have been] forced to be isolated from friends and family once again. The discussion was resurrected among friends as we kept in touch via Zoom calls. Then, in 2022, [ORC Board Member] Donald Bell reached out to me and told me about … Pam's vision for housing on the South Side of Chicago. Someone not only shared my idea but had begun taking steps to make it a reality. I was elated."

The board recently hired ORC's first executive director, Jim Harvey. A Chicago native, Harvey is a Masters level public health professional with more than 35 years of service to community health programs funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Bureau of Primary Health Care. Harvey was a Greater Chicago Committee co-founder and introduced the Bayard Rustin Awards here.

Harvey is also a long time organizational development consultant to Non-Profits and NGO's, which helped prepare him to lead in the development and completion of a residential housing and social services program for LGBTQ+ homeless youth in New Mexico. Harvey recently served as a domestic violence prevention program associate director where he also facilitated men's groups along with program administration at multiple levels.

In an email statement to Windy City Times, Harvey said, "Coming home is how I describe this incredible opportunity. Serving my community by helping to build a legacy is a dream come true. [ORC] is bringing strength and value to our history by giving voice to the senior LGBTQ+ community and shining a light on lives and experiences for generations to come. I am honored to serve."

ORC has partnered with non-profit affordable housing developer Full Circle Communities and affordable housing and long-term healthcare specialists WJW Architects, P.C. to bring this idea to fruition.

WJW Associate Jane Sloss told Windy City Times, "WJW's staff have already been captivated by [ORC's] vision in ways that few projects are able to do. We are very excited by the design possibilities evoked by [ORC]'s desire to simultaneously target the needs of Chicago's LGBTQ+ population on both ends of the age spectrum, along with purposeful connections to the broader community.

" We envision designing a building that addresses the physical, social, and emotional needs of LGBTQ+ elders and youth. Above all, we are committed to continuing to listen and learn in order to inclusively engage community stakeholders in participatory design. Our ultimate goal is to transform community input into the physical spaces and places that nourish the soul."

Full Circle Communities, Inc. President and CEO Joshua Wilmoth told Windy City Times that they are hoping to be under construction in the next 18-24 months. They are eyeing residents moving in sometime in 2026 or 2027.

Wilmoth added that "part of Full Circle's role in many of our partnerships is acting as the real estate expert to bring other organizations' visions to life. Especially with our experience with senior housing, and our recent development of LGBTQ+ youth housing in Detroit, we felt well aligned with [ORC]'s goals. Ultimately, we are working towards a housing and service model that respects, supports and amplifies the lives of Chicago's LGBTQ+ community, especially LGBTQ+ Black and People of Color [folks]."

ORC Board Member Peter Mathison echoed Wilmoth's desire to open the doors sometime in 2026. Mathison also said they are currently working with their prospective Bronzeville neighbors and across the South Side to build community partnerships as well as with LGBTQ+ youth and elders across the city.

Watson also told Windy City Times that "we envision this project as being an integrated part of the Bronzeville community, where residents and the community share resources and work together to improve the lives of the residents of Bronzeville. It is not just building housing, but building community, combining resources and building opportunities where little or none may have existed before. It is no coincidence that we looked at Bronzeville to develop this project. It has historically been seen as the heart and soul of the South Side of Chicago. It welcomed immigrants from the south to a new home up north in the land of opportunity. We want to create new opportunities to carry on that legacy."

For more information, visit oneroofchicago.org/, twitter.com/OneRoofChicago, instagram.com/One_Roof_Chicago/ and facebook.com/oneroofchicago.

See oneroofchicago.org/your-donation-matters to make a donation.


This article shared 2703 times since Sun Apr 23, 2023
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