By Kim Glovas and Pat Ciarrocchi
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The first housing development designed specifically for low-income seniors in the LGBT community had its “official” opening today in center city Philadelphia.READ MORE: New Jersey Man Dies In Pennsylvania Skydiving Accident
The John C. Anderson Apartments, at 249 South 13th Street, was temporarily swathed in rainbow-colored banners for today’s ribbon-cutting, but LGBT seniors have actually been living here since January.
Among them is Denise Samen.
“Oh, it’s like heaven,” she said today of the housing project.
What makes this place so different from every other place she has lived?
“Well, it’s seniors, they’re friendly, it’s a community, you feel safe,” Samen said.
LGBT civil rights pioneer Mark Segal spearheaded the $19.5 million development.
A parade of Pennsylvania and Philadelphia political power recognized the significance to this senior community.READ MORE: Nearly Half Of Nursing Home Workers In Pennsylvania Have Declined COVID-19 Vaccine, State Data Shows
“Being an LGBT friendly community, the largest development of its kind in the United States of America clearly shows Philadelphia as leading the way on human rights and LGBT rights issues,” Mayor Michael Nutter said.
Bill Lowden, who used to live in Northern Liberties because he couldn’t afford to live in what’s commonly called “the gayborhood,” now lives in the heart of Philadelphia’s gay community and he loves it.
“The place is so beautiful and the building is welcoming, which is very nice,” he said today, “and I can’t wait for spring to arrive, when the courtyard is in bloom.”
The rental apartments are one bedroom with over-sized windows equipped for seniors living safely.
For Susan Atlas and Mary Groce the John C. Anderson Apartments will be home someday.
“I was out in the city in 1975 and it was scary to be a lesbian back then. People were not accepted anywhere. It was really a sad situation, which is finally changing in a wonderful way,” Groce said.
Segal believes it should be a national model.
“If we don’t take care of our LGBT seniors, we’re not taking care of our community and that’s what real community is about,” Segal said.MORE NEWS: Family, Friends Celebrate World War II Veteran's 100th Birthday In Burlington County