D.C. Congressional Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton and District Council member and mayoral candidate Muriel Bowser were among more than 100 people that turned out on Sept. 20 for the second anniversary celebration of the founding of Mary’s House for Older Adults.
Billed as an “LGBT-friendly facility,” Mary’s House is expected to open in 2016 following completion of a major construction project to expand the single-family house owned by Imani Woody, founding director and president of Mary’s House for Older Adults, Inc.
Woody told the gathering at the site of the new facility at 401 Anacostia Rd., S.E., that the existing house on the property belonged to her family and was the home in which she grew up and later assisted her father in his retirement years.
“I witnessed my middle-class, heterosexual dad age and require family advocacy to make sure his needs and interests were met appropriately,” Woody said in a statement. “I know LGBT folks, with or without families, go back into the closet because being old and being gay at the same time are hard,” she said.
“I want to build a residence in our city where all elders, specifically LGBT elders, could bring their whole selves to the table,” she said.
According to literature distributed at the gathering, which took place in the spacious yard behind the existing structure, Mary’s House is in the process of raising $800,000 needed to begin the expansion project to convert the house into an eight-suite complex, with each suite having its own bedroom and bathroom.
Plans call for a common kitchen and dining area, where residents can socialize in a communal living arrangement.
Blueprints and an artist’s rendering of the completed house were on display at the Sept. 20 gathering.
“This is very novel in this city,” Norton told the gathering. “It has special meaning,” she told Woody. “You haven’t just gone out and done something that is wonderful. You have given the gift of your own family home … It tells us how much you believe in this project.”
Norton said she plans to take steps to determine whether the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development could provide some form of financial assistance to Mary’s House and similar facilities that are beginning to spring up in cities such as New York, Philadelphia and Los Angeles.
Bowser joined Norton in expressing strong support for city services for the city’s growing senior population, including LGBT seniors.
“You have put your finger on an issue, a challenge that we have in our growing city to make sure that when we’re building housing that housing is affordable, safe, clean and accommodating and housing that will serve the needs of our LGBTQ communities,” Bowser said. “And I’m very, very proud of you.”
Others who spoke at the gathering in support of the project were Sterling Washington, director of the Mayor’s Office of GLBT Affairs, and five representatives of LGBT supportive churches or faith groups, including Rev. Jeff Vomund of Dignity Washington, Rev. Dwayne Johnson of Metropolitan Community Church of Washington, Rev. Cedric Harmon of Many Voices and Bishop Allyson Abrams of Empowerment Liberation Cathedral. Rev. Elder Darlene Garner of MCC also spoke.