A safe place to call home

January 23, 2015

County placement specialist Carolyn McGrath (left) and adult care home operator Juan Galdamez at Thursday's board meeting.

Juan Galdamez remembers the time he was dusting the desk belonging to an older man who lived in one of five bedrooms in Galdamez’ adult care home in Northeast Portland.

As he cleaned, Galdamez passed over a deck of cards; in the place of the King of Diamonds or Jack of Hearts, naked male models posed. The older man’s face flushed.

“Don’t worry,” Galdamez said to the man. “We’re not going to judge you.”

The man was like many seniors who choose to hide their sexuality when they give up their independence and enter adult foster care. Galdamez said he could understand the fear of judgment. He had faced it too, came to expect it, because of his skin tone and his accent.

“We are very familiar with discrimination,” he said. “I’m an immigrant from El Salvador. I know how it feels coming to a new place, coming into a home where they don’t know if it’s welcoming for them.”

When he heard Multnomah County, in collaboration with SAGE Metro Portland, had developed a training for care homes like his to earn a designation as LGBT friendly, Galdamez jumped at the chance.

“For us, having this opportunity to serve our elderly is extremely important. We want to make sure people know we’re there for them,” he told the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners during the Jan. 22 meeting. “We really want to thank everyone for giving us this training.”

Multnomah County’s Aging, Disability and Veteran Services has designated nine of its licensed adult care homes as “LGBT Welcoming.” It plans to offer another series of classes for adult care home providers this year, county placement specialist Carolyn McGrath told the board on Thursday.

Chair Deborah Kafoury applauded county staff for launching the program and providers for their volunteer participation.

“I can think of nothing worse than being an elder who has lived a life, to have to worry about being able to express who you are, in a place you call home. That would be a desperate situation,” Chair Kafoury said. “Thank you for being a leader and being one of the first nine in our community to receive this designation and the extra time it’s taken from your life to participate in this. This is very important not just to the residents in your home but to all the residents of Multnomah County.”

The county licenses and inspects about 650 adult care homes; single-family residences where up to five seniors or adults with disabilities live, and where they also receive meals, medications and other services. To be awarded the designation, adult care home operators must:

  • Complete three trainings to advance their understanding of and sensitivity to the needs of LGBT adults.
  • Follow guidelines promoting respect, confidentiality, and a safe environment.
  • Sign and post a code of conduct demonstrating a commitment to values which support a respectful, inclusive home.
  • Post a welcoming symbol in the window nearest the home’s entrance.

Adult Care Homes with the designation can be found on the Adult Care Options website by searching for homes with “experience with LGBT,” then looking for a rainbow with the words, “This home designated by the Adult Care Home Program as LGBT welcoming” in the search results.

The homes will also be listed in SAGE Metro Portland’s “2015 LGBT-Friendly Housing Guide."