Since it launched a year ago, Openhouse + On Lok Community Day Services (Community Day), affectionately known as “Club 75” by its members, has been delivering care, community, and hope to San Francisco’s LGBTQ+ community.
Community Day provided Sharon with caregiver respite and crucial support for her wife Barbara, whose memory is starting to decline, so she can remain living at home. It helped Maryanne break out of isolation and share a hot meal, walks, and conversations with her queer peers. And it gave Miss Patti Ann, a transgender woman living with disability, access to safe transportation, exercise, and other life-affirming activities she can enjoy as her authentic self.
“Community members are always sharing with us how the program has helped them psychologically and given them a sense of connection,” says Su Waqa, Adult Day Program Manager at Community Day. “Many are isolated and have lost loved ones to HIV and other chronic health conditions. Community Day is the only place where they feel they have a family—we are so proud they come here every day to get the support and social interaction they are not getting anywhere else. If needed, community members and their caregivers are referred to additional services through Openhouse and On Lok to provide them with a continuum of care tailored to their changing needs.”
“The Community Day program really is by and for LGBTQ+ seniors," says John Blazek, On Lok Chief Development Officer and Executive Director, Day Services. "The dream and the vision have become a reality. And it is a true partnership between Openhouse and On Lok. We are using the strength, expertise, and credibility of both organizations and bringing them together to create a program you don’t see anywhere else in the nation. The confirmation of its success for us was when the community began to affectionately call it Club 75. The nickname tells us that our participants love and care about their program and that it’s a fun and happy place to be."
Community Day’s festive environment belies the sense of urgency and responsibility behind its work, at a time when the queer community feels particularly vulnerable. “We are standing on the shoulders of the pioneers who challenged the status quo and disrupted the system to build a society that works for all of us. We are passionate about making sure that they have the respect and safe space they deserve to be able to age gracefully—and fabulously,” says Su. She sees the program is already making a difference. “One day we were dropping off a community member and she turned around and said, ‘You take such good care of us! I hope someday someone will take care of you.’”
In the photo by Wilson Ferreira: Openhouse + On Lok Community Day Services community members and staff gathered to enjoy a Mariachi Nueva Generación! concert in October 2022.