For the past five years, SAGE Metro Detroit has been operational as a local affiliate of the largest LGBTQ elder care organization in the U.S., Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders. By providing a mix of resources like LGBTQ-awareness training, advocating on a state and local level, educating the greater LGBTQ community of Metro Detroit and more, SAGE Metro Detroit has helped to foster community and face-to-face interaction among those who receive its services. However, just as with all similar advocacy organizations around the world, steps have been taken to protect against the spread of coronavirus. Despite this shift in programming and protocol, SAGE Metro Detroit Executive Director Angie Perone said that LGBTQ older adults should still feel comfortable reaching out to the organization and using its services.
“We’re here for you,” she said. “All of us, our roles have expanded significantly because we are still trying to do some of the same stuff to keep us moving forward with a much more focused lens on what the immediate needs are given COVID-19.”
For now, the organization has put its focus on developing documents like this resource guide designed specifically for LGBTQ older adults, and focused on its remote services. Perone said that the Friendly Caller Program, designed to combat the isolation of LGBTQ elders, has been especially popular.
“The intent of the program was really to connect people by phone, and then provide resources and referrals as needed, but now the need has become really great for a lot of our participants so we need to be more proactive. And we are being more proactive about connecting them to groceries and ways to access food, ways to access medical transportation and ways to access different kinds of health needs,” she said. “So we’ve modified and expanded the program to make sure that we provide the most accurate, updated information and access to resources.”
Perone said that SAGE is also hoping to create care packages to send to people in the community who might be feeling especially removed from resources during this time of social isolation. She added that while the “details are being ironed out” on the expansion of as many remote services as possible, she’s grateful for the help of a coalition created earlier this year to help out with the housing gap for LGBTQ elders.
“The folks that are participating are Affirmations, Corktown Health Center, Detroit Elder Project, we have folks from LGBT Detroit, Transgender Michigan, Trans Sistas of Color, and of course we have others — it’s a pretty broad group of folks that participate. And the goal was to release a survey within the community to identify what is your current housing situation and what would you like it to be, what are the gaps in service, what are the gaps in meeting your needs, food, paying bills associated for housing, and it’s also a very important resource right now,” she said. “We’ve kind of been shifting the ways in which we’ve been disseminating that survey, but I think because we had that already in place, it’s been easier to already reach out to our collective organization and connect with each other.”
Though each of the coalition’s representatives has now switched to meeting remotely, those connections, she said, are proving “robust conversation about COVID-19” and how to respond.
“I will say, the specific coalition for COVID-19 is still emerging, and part of this is because all of us are still in survival mode in terms of what are our most urgent needs for our community we need to address right now, and also transitioning our own internal structures to be responsive,” Perone said. “So, I think while we’re all actually in touch with each other we are looking to having a deeper more formal structure that will emerge in the near future.”
In the meantime, Perone encourages anyone interested in finding elder LGBTQ care to stay connected virtually with SAGE.
“We’re pushing the importance of staying connected and making sure folks are really taking care of themselves and being mindful of that. The biggest thing we can offer right now is our Friendly Caller Program, but I think folks can really look forward to more resources on our website as well as our partner websites and other creative ways to stay connected,” she said. ” And we’re also going to be looking toward the community to help us with ideas on what they need, and I think we’ll see some new evolving developments as a result of that as well.”