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Portland church helps build LGBTQ+ senior housing

A church in the Cedar Mills neighborhood is designating land to help build affordable housing for LGBTQ+ seniors, which would be the first in Oregon.

PORTLAND, Ore. — A Portland-area nonprofit and church are working together to help build an affordable housing complex for LGBTQ+ seniors.

Rev. Ric Shewell is pastor of Christ United Methodist Church in the Cedar Mills neighborhood. His church is part of what's called the "Reconciling Ministries Network."

"Which is a network of churches that are bold in proclaiming that we affirm our LGBTQ neighbors and siblings," Shewell explained. "That we love them as they are."

After years of planning, the church is moving forward to designate land on its property to help build the Saltzman Road Apartment Complex

"It's the very first LGBT affordable housing project in the state of Oregon," said Max Micozzi, manager of SAGE Metro Portland.

The nonprofit helps connect LGBTQ seniors with social and wellness services, including housing.

"We have to remember these people are trailblazers," Micozzi said. "Many grew up in the 40s, 50s, 60s, where they were discriminated against in their workplace, by their family members, by their friends, and their churches."

Micozzi explained some LGBTQ seniors are left with lasting trauma and disadvantages from such treatment. Some lost jobs, were disowned by family members, and did not have the right to adopt and start families of their own.

"Many are living alone and don't have that younger family support," Micozzi said.

That's where the new $15 million, 53-unit housing complex comes in on the church's land.

"The church has a lot of apologizing to do," Shewell said. "We feel that it's important to be part of this movement, to be vocal about our love and our affirmation and care for people who've had unique struggles."

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The project is funded in part by grants and money from a Metro bond measure that voters passed in 2018.

The housing complex will be open to people of all backgrounds but have a focus on being LGBTQ-friendly.

If all goes well with permits and construction, the complex will likely open in 2023, Micozzi said.

SAGE Metro Portland emphasized more can be done to help vulnerable LGBTQ+ seniors in Oregon. It's part of a collaborative effort to survey seniors and better quantify the community's needs, particularly in underserved rural areas.

To help in its efforts, the nonprofit is hosting an awards ceremony and fundraiser on June 25 at 6 p.m.

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