Summer update from CEO Anna Kear

Hello and Happy Pride month!

As we kick off this celebratory month I wanted to take a moment to share some of the things that we have been doing here at Tonic over the last few months. The most recent highlight for me has been the Pink News Summit on Ageing where I met Sydney Kopp-Richardson, Director of the National LGBT Elder Housing Initiative from SAGE USA. We were invited to speak on what LGBT+ specific housing offers older people and the differences between the UK and US approaches. Sydney spoke of the impact that their projects will achieve reflecting on the very real issues that face older LGBT people today: as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York City, one of the veterans of that historic event is currently homeless. Learning from Sydney and the work of SAGE USA has been inspiring and I’m hoping to attend their Symposium in October and visit their new housing projects in NYC, the first of which opens this month.

We have continued to raise the profile of Tonic so that we can amplify  the voices of those who tell us every day of their need for safe affirming housing and supportive communities.  We are delighted to be one of 15 housing organisations appointed to the London Housing Panel, giving us a role in informing the Mayor of London’s housing policy. We’re planning to speak with as many of the capital’s LGBT+ housing groups before the first meeting on June 25th. Luke attended a Women and Equalities Committee evidence session with MPs Maria Miller and Jess Phillips as part of the ‘Health and social care and LGBT communities inquiry’ and I’ll be joining the “Future of Care – Changing Communities” panel at the National Care Forum’s Annual Conference on June 5th. I was also honoured to be invited to Chair the Housing with Pride project which held its first meeting in May. Funded by the UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence, the project will actively engage social housing professionals and LGBTQ+ residents to discuss and implement effective frameworks to ensure LGBTQ+ inclusion.

Whilst we’ve been progressing with a number of site opportunities we’ve been focusing on how to most effectively develop our retirement communities. We have been strengthening our relationships with a number of housing providers in London looking at a number of ‘ready-built’ opportunities. We’ve recently joined the London & Quadrant Build London Partnership which develops housing projects for its partners using their development and finance skills and resources. We have been lucky enough to have received advice and support from the Associated Retirement Community Operators and are excited that we have now officially joined their Accelerator Programme. This is a fantastic way for us to learn from the established and innovative experts in the retirement sector and stay up-to-date with the latest policy issues.

I’m very grateful for the support and generosity of our fellow LGBT+ organisations, in particular Opening Doors London and Stonewall Housing who have shared their skills and knowledge and with whom we continue to building lasting relationships. We have jointly launched the Building Safe Choices action research project initially funded by the Greater London Authority and supported by the University of Surrey’s Centre for Research on Ageing and Gender. Through this work, a continuation of Stonewall Housing’s Building Safe Choices report, we aim to gather robust evidence of the housing and support requirements of older LGBT+ people across London so we can build communities and design services that best meet these needs. We developed the questionnaire directly with our Community Panel as well as additional members of Opening Doors London to ensure it works! We will be asking LGBT+ people over 50 to complete it either online, by post or in-person at events and we will be promoting participation. If you’d like to be involved or have any ideas on how to reach out to more people please get in touch!

In keeping with our wider involvement, in March and May we were invited to two workshops hosted by the Consortium to design a framework for the LGBT sector to better communicate the impact that our work has - it was brilliant to see how much we all had in common and really proved that by working together we can achieve more.

And a bit of housekeeping… a little while ago we changed our name from Tonic Housing to Tonic Living, to reflect our vision ‘to create and run vibrant and inclusive urban LGBT+ affirmative retirement communities where people can share common experiences, find mutual support and enjoy later life’. This is so much more than a “building” and we wanted to communicate this in our name. We have also updated our branding (with thanks to Pollitt & Partners) and launched the new website that you’re on - please take a look around and let us know what you think as we continue to grow and develop. Speaking of growth, in case you missed the announcement earlier this year, we’ve gained three new Directors for our Board earlier in the year. Along with their commitment to Tonic’s mission, Fiona Astin, Jose de Pablo and Paul McDermott bring a combined wealth of experience in housing, development, finance and law.

Thanks so much for your continued support of the work that we do at Tonic.

Have a fabulous Pride,

Anna

P.S. Please register your interest if you feel that something like Tonic might be an option for you at some point in later life. We will keep the blogs and updates coming from a range of different people. Do let us know if there is anything you think we should know about and would like us to cover.