Openhouse opens a new community space

After a year of delay in opening the doors to its new community center, Openhouse, the San Francisco LGBTQ senior service provider, is moving into the 7,000 square foot space. It includes a library with a reading lounge, rooms for art programs and yoga classes, as well as additional offices for staff.

It must be named after a recently deceased gay couple who made a large donation to the association. Their names have yet to be released publicly, as Openhouse is planning a groundbreaking ceremony as early as February to reveal the centre’s new name.

“They left a significant amount of money at Openhouse,” Kathleen Sullivan, Ph.D., executive director of the agency, recently told the Bay Area Reporter.

Currently known as the Openhouse Community Center at 75 Laguna, it is also home to the Openhouse + On Lok Community Day Services. The country’s first adult community day program co-designed for and with the LGBTQ + community, it currently operates three days a week and hopes to have registered 25 participants by the end of the year. (See related story.)

In design since 2018, the program was to be launched in 2019 when the new community center was scheduled to open. But as BAR previously reported, construction issues pushed back that timeline, and then the COVID-19 pandemic further delayed the two agencies that could use the space for public programming.

Openhouse previewed the new building to limited-size tours in September, and its program with On Lok launched on September 28. Savvy Green Cleaners also opened this fall in the 2,500 square foot retail space on the ground floor of the building at 55 Laguna Street.

It should have moved from its long-standing storefront at 1890 Market Street in March 2020 just as the COVID-19 pandemic emerged. Owner Hisun Kang has divided the retail space into two, with the one at the corner of Hermann Street to be a laundromat that will soon open.

When it does, it will mean that the entire Openhouse campus on Laguna Street will be fully utilized for the first time since the first residential units opened at 55 Laguna in late 2016 in a former university building that has been refurbished. The remainder of the ground floor spaces of the building, with an address of 65 Laguna, is home to Openhouse’s Bob Ross LGBT Senior Center, named after the founding publisher of BAR.

As for the new two-story community center, its staircase features a mural by artist David Faulk, a gay and HIV-positive man selected for the commission. The “living tribute” to long-term survivors of HIV and AIDS was funded primarily through a $ 250,000 capital grant from Gilead Sciences Inc.

Entitled “The Scenic Route”, the work is a largely comical take on the various journeys that people living with HIV and AIDS, represented as cartoon animals, have taken. Living walls planted with various plant species surround it.

It’s the focal point of a light-flooded atrium, as a wall of windows behind the staircase lets natural sunlight filter into the community center. A door at the top of the stairs leads to the exterior courtyard that connects the two affordable seniors and LGBTQ housing buildings that Openhouse has built in partnership with Mercy Housing, an affordable housing developer across California.

“It’s a welcoming space full of light. It’s really beautiful,” said Donna Personna, a transgender woman who lives in one of the senior apartments in the 95 Laguna building which is connected to the community center. .

Other spaces
The upper staircase entrance may be closed to the public during the day program with On Lok. It uses the main room on the second floor which can be split into smaller classrooms or resource rooms if needed.

The space is called The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Activity Center because the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, one of the largest private charitable foundations in the United States, has been a major Openhouse donor for years. In 2018, the foundation awarded the association a capital grant of $ 1 million, which allowed the hall to be named after Jewish philanthropists.

“Harry and Jeannette Weinberg cared deeply about the elderly, especially those with low incomes and the most vulnerable. They defined the original vision, which made the foundation one of the largest funders in the field of senior services in the United States, ”said Aaron Merki, program manager for the foundation. “Supporting organizations like Openhouse, which meet the needs of an aging and at-risk population of LGBT seniors and which enables them to live with maximum independence and quality of life, fits perfectly with the mission of the foundation and its founders. . “

Other areas of the community center have also been named for supporters of the association. The Sarah Baron Library is named after the mother of a major donor who donated $ 130,000 to the association about two decades ago, while the Dr. Karyn Skultety Balcony sits outside the center. activities. It has been nicknamed the Bowtie Balcony because of the agency’s former executive director with a fondness for wearing ties.

Close to the main floor lobby of the Community Center – the Dale S. Bentley Welcome Center – is the Oryx Partners Art Studio, Zepf-Payton Staff Room, and Lifelong Learning Center. of life John Paul De Cecco. The Learning Center, named after the late gay human sexuality scholar, is a classroom-like space that can also be used for exercise classes, movie screenings and other programs, such as the Openhouse Halloween party this year.

The learning center uses Owl virtual meeting technology so that participation in the program can be hybrid, with some participants being in person and others connecting from their homes. The space also has a special flooring material that is easier on people’s knees when doing yoga or meditation in the room.

“Some people cannot get the vaccine for medical reasons, so they can still participate in our programs,” Sullivan said.

Near the check-in counter, where everyone has to take their temperature due to the ongoing pandemic, is a touch-activated video screen that contains various photos and videos from Openhouse as well as a short compilation on the lives of the agency founders Marcy Adelman, Ph.D., and his late wife, Jeanette Gurevitch. A painting of the couple hangs to the left of the entrance to the community center.

“It’s amazing. Jeanette and Marcy had this vision of creating housing for LGBT seniors. From their vision that has been significantly expanded,” Tim Wolfred, 76, a gay man who is a donor and a participant in the Openhouse program. by visiting the new facility earlier this fall. “This building is a visible manifestation of their work. It is very well done … It is a demonstration of the support they have received from various aspects of the community.”

The entire community center space is open to the public on Sundays and Mondays when the daytime program with On Lok is not operating. The rest of the week, the public has access to the main level areas for various daytime programs.

To learn more about the community engagement programs offered by Openhouse, click here.

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