By Greg Hernandez
It had been a decade since Lisa Chilton had a home of her own, but she tried to remain even-keeled earlier this month as she moved her belongings into a studio apartment inside the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Ariadne Getty Foundation Senior Housing.
The day after moving in, the 63-year-old took the bus to a friend’s barbecue a few miles away. She ate, socialized, and had a good time. When it came time for her to return home, the Chicago native began to shake and cry uncontrollably.
“It was nothing but euphoria because, when I got ready to leave my friend’s place, I was coming back to mine—and it was going to be as I left it,” shared Chilton. “During these 10 years, whether it was renting a room or sleeping on various sofas, I had been in many people’s space, trying to stay small, and following their schedules.”
Chilton had always held a job. She worked as a pastry chef, an accountant, and, for many years, as a code enforcement officer and then a regulatory business license officer for the City of West Hollywood. But two freak accidents while on the job in 2007 left her unable to work and requiring extensive rehabilitation. Gradually, her living situations declined. She had to give up the rent-controlled apartment in West Hollywood where she had lived since 1986. By 2011, she rented a room in a friend’s large house for six years and, since 2017, had been “going to sofa to sofa to sofa.”
Chilton had grown accustomed to what she describes as “the homeless circuit” which involved shuffling between the homes of friends and family, from Redlands to Venice to Encino to West Hollywood. She was careful not to stay too long in any one place for fear of wearing out her welcome.
“It’s been collecting my things from all these various places and figuring out what else I needed,” she said a few days after moving into the new five-story senior housing. “I had downsized with each move and pretty much gave away most of my things.”
Now it was time to start over.
Located at 1127 North Las Palmas Avenue, the senior housing complex is the final cornerstone completing the Center’s revolutionary Anita May Rosenstein Campus. The nearly 33,000-square-foot building has 98 units; a community room with a communal kitchen and dining facilities; and a fitness center. Residents have direct access to the Center’s Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Senior Center.
“This is probably the most important home I’ve ever had,” she said. “For many people, a home is a building where they have stuff. For me, home is my sanctuary. It is safety. It is a place of peace.”
To learn more about the Center’s Senior Services, including upcoming activities and workshops, visit lalgbtcenter.org/seniors.