San Diego apartments welcome LGBTQ seniors

October 22, 2019

Terry Vaughn and others have found their home at a new apartment community funded by U.S. Bank.

Coming out wasn’t acceptable in rural Georgia when Terry Vaughn was young, but he did it anyway. And in the days, months and years that followed, he was rejected by his family and endured discrimination that kept him from accumulating savings and assets – all just for being his true self. 

Throughout his life, Vaughn (pictured above) served in the military, was a custom-cabinetry maker and worked as a peer advocate for the LGBTQ community. However, he was also unemployed for long periods of time due to illness.

In 1997, Vaughn moved from Georgia to San Diego to continue treatment for HIV. “Moving to San Diego changed my life,” Vaughn said. “I was embraced by such diverse people and culture.”

In 2016, Vaughn’s world came tumbling down when he received notice that his rent was increasing $100 a month. It was a complete deal-breaker for someone who lives on a fixed income of about $1,000 a month. “I was so devastated after reading the notice,” he explained. “I went to the housing authority’s website to find a solution and [that’s when] I saw my miracle.”

Enter North Park Apartments, San Diego’s first LGBTQ-affirming housing development for seniors.

North Park, which opened late last year, is the result of many years of meetings and surveys that found many members of the local LGBTQ community had no one they could count on for support.

Once North Park’s nonprofit owner and manager Community HousingWorks started to draw up plans for the project, U.S. Bank expressed interest in supporting it. 

“It was a very competitive bid and there was a lot of interest,” says Sylvia Martinez, senior project manager at Community HousingWorks. “But U.S. Bank dug a little deeper during the underwriting process to become a partner. They understood what it meant to create a LGBTQ-affirming community and came up with a great proposal.”

With a $12 million affordable housing tax credit equity investment from U.S. Bank subsidiary U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporate, Community HousingWorks got to work. 

The 76-unit development is located close to public transportation, hospitals and the LGBT Community Center, which provides residents in need with case managers that help connect them with the social, medical and mental services. 

North Park is designed to offer residents a peaceful environment. The building is painted in earthly tones and its exterior is decorated with stencil-like art that reflects the colors of a rainbow against the walls as the sun moves throughout the day. It also has outdoor spaces with seating and plants.

And, in addition to individual kitchens in each unit, there is a common area where residents can cook together and share meals. It is designed to be especially meaningful to those who have lived in isolation due to unsupportive families, who may have lost friends and partners to the HIV epidemic, or who were denied the benefits of legal marriage.

“HousingWorks worked so hard to create a community for folks who didn’t have any,” said Kate de La Garza, USBCDC affordable housing project manager and an openly gay, married mother of two children. “Personally, this project meant a lot for me, it was a way of giving back to a community that fought hard to ensure that people like me could get married and have a family.”

Vaughn was among the first to apply for a unit at North Park. When it was almost ready for residents, he received the call he was waiting for – his application was approved.

“After I hung up the phone, I broke down thanking God for this great relief and joy,” he recalled. “I haven’t been this happy in so long.”

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