It’s no secret that the pioneers of the gay rights movement of the '60s are growing older, many of them now elders, making them vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19 in addition to the pre-existing health disparities.
"These are the seniors who created gay liberation," said Chris Bartlett, executive director of the William Way LGBT Community Center.
"They built the first organizations, they fought the AIDS epidemic and we owe it to them to have the best services, advocacy, programs, even housing so that they have the most joyous and productive senior-hoods we could imagine."
That's why merging with the LGBT Elder Initiative was so essential, said Bartlett, a move three years in the making.
"This is an example of intersectionality," he explained, "bringing together advocacy and education to make sure that LGBT seniors are not invisible but in fact are visible and thriving, and putting that alongside direct service, whether that's housing or supplies."
According to Bartlett, they have no intentions of downsizing personnel. Instead, the partnership, called the Elder Initiative at William Way, means that they will be able to increase their team to provide better services to the hundreds of people each organization helps.
"This is a time of uncertainty," he expressed. "We don’t know if the COVID crisis will last another half-year or multiple years, so one of the advantages of this merger is it brings all of our resources together to plan strategically so that we can have a plan A, plan B, plan C for our seniors, make sure that we both raise the resources to meet those needs and are in regular communication with the seniors themselves to make sure that they don’t feel isolated and that they get what they need."