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At Spirit on Lake, LGBT seniors in Minneapolis find safe haven

BY PATRICK CONDON
ASSOCIATED PRESS

MINNEAPOLIS -- Lucretia Kirby was on her own for the first time in years after her partner's death. She felt stranded in a church-affiliated assisted living facility, where she said bigotry and even physical threats were ignored by building managers.

Russ Lovaasen was infected with HIV in 1982. Decades of medication and its side effects left him prematurely aged at 62, and unable to afford a place of his own.

Harvey Hertz, a gay man who came out decades ago, was terrified that moving into a retirement community would force him back into the closet. He'd seen it happen.

Since September, Hertz, Kirby and Lovaasen have joined others as the charter residents at Spirit on Lake, a 46-unit affordable housing complex in Minneapolis marketed to older members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. Only the second building of its kind in the United States — more are under construction or planned in Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco — Spirit on Lake's backers say it fills a growing need for a generation of openly gay people now reaching their twilight years.

"GLBT seniors have significant issues. They're growing old in many cases in isolation, in fear," said Barbara Satin, a 79-year-old transgender activist described by building residents as "the matriarch of Spirit on Lake."

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