Wise At Sage, Sabiduria en SAGE
By Gregg McQueen
The Bronx senior has been a client at the center on East 188th Street, which provides LGBT-centric services for older adults, for the past two years.
Spivey participates in social events, weekday lunches, seminars and wellness programs at SAGE, which stands for Services and Advocacy for Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Elders.
“I do it all here,” she remarked.
Spivey said she particularly cherishes the weekly women’s support group hosted by the center.
“It’s really important to have these services, and to network with others like me,” she said. “There don’t seem to be many programs for LGBT adults in this area.”
Seeking to improve resources for the LGBT community in the borough, State Senator Jeff Klein has allocated $150,000 to SAGE Center Bronx to help expand its services.
State Senator Jeff Klein (center) allocated funding for the center.
To mark National Coming Out Day, Klein joined City Councilmember Ritchie Torres at SAGE on Tues., Oct. 11 to present a check to the group’s Chief Executive Officer, Michael Adams.
The funds are expected to boost SAGE’s outreach efforts to connect with older LGBT adults in the borough.
“They’re the ones who helped build the groundwork in our communities, and built our communities,” he remarked. “We have to make sure we meet their needs.”
Adams said there are more than 7,000 LGBT seniors currently residing in the Bronx.
“One out of three of them live in poverty,” said Adams. “That’s why the SAGE Center is so important and that’s why we need support so our programs can grow.”
Klein, in noting that his $150,000 gift marked the first time that SAGE has received state funding, made a promise that it wouldn’t be the last.
“I do it all here,” said Marie Spivey.
“I pledge to you that we’re going to make sure we get more,” he said.
“It’s hard to imagine a more underserved population than LGBT seniors,” commented Torres.
He said that many LGBT elders are separated or abandoned by their families and end up dying alone.
“This funding will save lives,” stated Torres.
Spivey said that there is still a reticence among LGBT individuals to visit social service outlets and community centers, as they are not always made to feel welcome.
“There’s still a fear there,” she said. “Not every place we go is accepting of the LGBT community.”
Located inside Union Community Health Center (UCHC), SAGE Center Bronx is able to easily connect LGBT elders with health services.
SAGE Site Manager José Collazo said that social workers provide case management as well as support groups for caregiving, bereavement, HIV, depression and more.
Art programming is offered.
The site, which is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday through Friday, also provides hot lunch five days a week for a suggested $2 donation.
SAGE Center Bronx hosts about 75 clients per weekday, Adams said. Before the site opened two years ago, many clients had to travel into other boroughs to access LGBT support services.
“People come here to get a sense of community,” Collazo said. “There’s not a lot of places around here that serve this population, but this is right in their backyard.”
Adams said that he is seeking to expand the size of SAGE’s Bronx location.
“This funding will save lives,” said Councilmember Ritchie Torres.
“We’re bursting at the seams in this space,” remarked Adams, who said he is in discussions with UCHC about potentially acquiring more office space in the building.
Collazo said he is already visualizing ways to use the funding providing by Klein, such as adding more Spanish-language programming and experimenting with evening and weekend activities.
And, he’d like to acquire a van to help bring clients to and from the center.
“I’ll call it the SAGE Mobile,” he remarked. “I already have the name, now all I need is the van.”