At first glance,
Triangle Square is just the latest apartment complex
opening in rapidly gentrifying Hollywood, the fabled Los
Angeles neighborhood that is emerging from decades of
malaise to become a thriving urban center. The lobby
looks like the interior of a W Hotel; the famed
intersection Hollywood and Vine (site of a future W Hotel)
is two blocks away; and two upscale commercial
projects built over the past five years sit just to
the south. But Triangle Square is a different kind of
apartment building: Thanks to local, state, and federal
support, it's the nation's first
multicultural affordable-housing development for LGBT
LGBT-oriented retirement centers being developed in Santa
Fe, N.M., and Palm Springs, Calif., where units will
be priced at market rates, Triangle Square's
103 apartments are for those on fixed and low incomes
over age 62. Monthly rates are between $230 and $800. In a
white-hot rental market like Los Angeles, that's a
the street units are going for $1,600 to $2,500,"
says Mark Supper, executive director of the nonprofit
Gay and Lesbian Elder Housing, which spearheaded
Triangle Square. The complex opened in May and
features a computer room on each of its four floors, plus a
gym, pool, library, media room, and game room.
Of the target
residents, Supper says, "many of them are in dire
situations." Often lacking the family support that
straight elders receive--and facing atmospheres
at most retirement communities that are far from
gay-friendly--many out seniors return to the closet,
if they can find a space that will take them at all.
Indeed, 17 Triangle Square units are designated for
those who are homeless or in danger of becoming so.
helping such folks as less an act of charity than as a
community necessity. "I feel very strongly we
wouldn't be standing here, you and I, having
this conversation--even The Advocate
existing--if it were not for our seniors who had
fought for us," he says during a recent tour.
"It is about time that we as a community came around
and took care of our seniors."
And those seniors
have responded. Although fair-housing laws mean that
Triangle Square cannot legally ask about sexual
orientation--or deny an eligible straight elder
a place--the majority of applicants so far have
self-identified as LGBT. "Because there is such a
need, the community has flocked to fill out
applications," says Supper.
The response from
the greater community has been positive as well. "It
was a dream come true to see this become a reality,"
says city council member Eric Garcetti. Located on
land provided by the city of Los Angeles, Triangle
Square was built by private developer McCormack Baron
Salazar but received support from numerous government
entities--including the federal Department of
Housing and Urban Development, through its Housing
Opportunities for People With AIDS program. (Eighteen units
have been set aside at Triangle Square for residents
with HIV and AIDS.)
"It was a
unique financial structure that was put together,"
says Supper, who plans to replicate the success in
other areas. "Our goal is to take this model on
Jimmy Hughes, 68,
was scheduled to be one of Triangle Square's first
residents. An Ohio native and former Trappist monk, Hughes
was a surgery technician, office administrator, and a
staffer for the "Dear Abby" newspaper
column before medical conditions forced him to retire.
Currently living in a studio apartment in a rough L.A.
neighborhood, Hughes is looking forward to an easier
energy in that building is just fabulous," he says.
At one of Triangle Square's opening receptions,
Hughes spoke before a group of local VIPs. "I
said I was a gay senior citizen," he remembers.
"It was so freeing, I can't tell