June 18, 2018 at 3:35 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Mary’s House receives $1.19 million in D.C. funding
Imani Woody Macko, Mary's House, Washington Blade, gay news, Queery

Imani Woody, founder and CEO of Mary’s House, said she’s looking to raise a total of $4.4 million. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced last week that the city has awarded $1,193,239 in funding for Mary’s House for Older Adults, a planned home for LGBT seniors to be built in a residential area in Southeast Washington.

Bowser said Mary’s House was one of nine projects selected as part of a $103 million city funding allocation aimed at preserving or producing affordable housing for more than 1,700 residents, including seniors and residents experiencing homelessness.

“Using every tool in our toolbox means preserving the affordable housing we already have available, building new units, and funding innovative projects that do both – that’s what these nine projects will do,” Bowser said in a statement.

Imani Woody, founder and CEO of Mary’s House, said the city funding allocation of $1.19 million was a major boost to efforts by Mary’s House to raise a total of $4.4 million needed for construction and related costs for completing the Mary’s House facility.

Wood has said Mary’s House will be built on a property at 401 Anacostia Road, S.E., which is the site of a single family house where she lived with her parents as a child. Plans call for replacing the existing house with a new structure that will include 15 individual suites with a common kitchen, private bathrooms, a library, and rooftop garden, among other amenities.

When completed it is expected to be D.C.’s only residential facility catering to LGBT seniors.

“The older you get you have to figure out whether you’re going to have to fight ageism or fight homophobia,” Imani said in discussing problems LGBT seniors often face when looking for a retirement home.

“And so this house, when you put the key in the door, you’re home and you don’t have to fight anymore,” she said. “You’re at a place where everybody knows your name you don’t have to put yourself back in the closet, which would be so hard to do.”

Polly Donaldson, director of the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development, which approved the city funding allocation for Mary’s House, said Mary’s House and other housing projects approved for the latest round of funding each met a series of criteria indicating they are viable projects that would boost the city’s and the mayor’s goal of increasing and preserving affordable housing in the District.

“This is really a way to say we can help,” Donaldson said about the funding allocation for Mary’s House. “This is a nonprofit development. Mary’s House is a nonprofit organization and we think it’s important to support some big projects and smaller projects like this one,” she said.

The announcement released by the mayor on the city funding for the nine projects says “Mary’s House (Ward 7) will produce 15 units for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/same gender loving (LGBTQ/SGL) seniors.” It says the funding would come from the city’s Housing Production Trust Fund, which was created to help support affordable housing.

The announcement says Mary’s House is working in partnership with Northern Real Estate Urban Ventures, LLC, a real estate development company that Woody said has been involved in the Mary’s House project since its start several years ago.

Woody said the next hurdle for Mary’s House is the need to raise $200,000 for “pre-development costs.” She added, “We need 200 people to write a check for a thousand dollars.”

The Mary’s House website says its plans for financing the project include a “combination of bank loans, funding from the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development, and grant money from foundations and individual donors.”

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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