Jeffrey Newman and Jayson Conner have been working on the streets of New York City to provide homeless people with necessities since March.
The couple put together backpacks filled with things that may be of use to those without a roof over their head: hand sanitiser, gloves, masks, sleeping bags and antibacterial wipes.
This isn’t new to them – back in March of 2018 they founded ‘Together Helping Others’, a non-profit which seeks to help people sleeping on the streets. Before the coronavirus took over the world, they were filling bags with clothes, first-aid kits, flashlights and toiletries like toothpaste, nail clippers and shampoo.
While COVID-19 may have changed what they’re packing, work remains largely the same for Newman and Conner. But they say this pandemic has been particularly difficult for the homeless.
“When COVID hit, it became clear immediately that the most vulnerable communities were the elderly, people with underlying illnesses, and the homeless,” Newman told The Advocate.
But unlike the elderly and the immunocompromised, Newman said that people have not stepped up to help the homeless. He was reminded of the charity work during the AIDS epidemic.
“You would see the celebs and politicians rally around AIDS babies or children in Africa because they were the safe demographic to support,” he said.
“[It’s] the same now. People are all getting behind the safe demographics, but no one is out talking about the dirty person in need of a shower and a bed, who is sleeping out on the sidewalk who’s battling coronavirus or trying to survive without getting it.”
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DESPERATE PLEA!!! We don't have @ladygaga, @eltonjohn or the glitz of Hollywood and Broadway to host a telethon for us. We don't have governors and lawmakers doing daily briefings to tout our work or do a call of arms for the plight of our clients, even though they remain among the top ONE PERCENT of the MOST VULNERABLE to COVID-19. We don't have the sexiness of @heidiklum Instagramming, or even the melodiousness of @aliciakeys, @meghan_trainor or @jasonderulo TikTok-ing for us. . . All we have are thousands of everyday men, women and youths who are homeless and living on the street, scared, alone and with little to no resources or help for their basic necessities and COVID-19 fighting supplies like anti-bacterial wipes and soap, hand sanitizer, masks, latex gloves, etc … except from organizations like @backpacksforthestreet, which is out on the front lines DAY and NIGHT to assist them. . . These are CRITICAL TIMES. . . We DESPERATELY NEED YOU! . . This is the fight of a lifetime for all of us, but especially for our homeless. . . Whether you can spare $1 or $1,000, every dollar counts right now to help us continue our efforts. . . Donate at: . . https://bfts.org/donate . . Every dollar makes a difference. . . . #homelessnyc #homelessman #feedtgehomeless #backpacksforthestreet #togetherhelpingothers #homelesspeople #helpthehomeless #homelessbreakfast #nychomeless #nychomelessness #notinvisible #covidkit #covidhelp #covidhomeless
Mainstream society ignoring the homeless has left him understandably frustrated. He lamented the fact that no celebrity like Lady Gaga or Elton John is doing a charity fundraiser for the homeless despite them being in the top 5% of most vulnerable people.
Although there have been some attempts by the local government to house New York City’s homeless, they haven’t been nearly consistent enough according to Newman.
“It is all over the place with a lot of people making bold statements and demanding big action with little follow-through and little movement,” he said.
There has yet to be an increase in food stamps and shelters are flooded with people. Thankfully, that’s where Together Helping Others steps in.
“[We] are not concerned about red tape or bureaucracy and we are not worrying about our electability. We are not wasting our time with tweets and online menacing. We are on the front lines, getting our hands dirty, risking our own well-being to keep others safe,” he said.
People sleeping on street have been very grateful according to the couple. This is probably partly because of the little options afforded to them elsewhere. Newman hopes the pandemic can at the very least open up the eyes of the general public and help them understand the reality of homelessness.
“People who are not homeless and are suddenly facing the first real possibility that it could happen has made them more compassionate towards people in need and helping those who are struggling now,” he said. “People are realising homelessness is not necessarily a choice or something anyone can foresee and that a person’s circumstances should not define their worth.”
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