This gay couple are helping New York City's homeless during the pandemic

Jeffrey Newman and Jayson Conner are on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, helping the homeless population in New York City.

Jeffrey Newman and Jayson Conner wearing face masks and jackets to help the homeless in New York.

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.”

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.”

© 2020 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

Support GCN

GCN has been a vital, free-of-charge information service for Ireland’s LGBTQ+ community since 1988.

During this global COVID pandemic, we like many other organisations have been impacted greatly in the way we can do business and produce. This means a temporary pause to our print publication and live events and so now more than ever we need your help to continue providing this community resource digitally.

GCN is a registered charity with a not-for-profit business model and we need your support. If you value having an independent LGBTQ+ media in Ireland, you can help from as little as €1.99 per month. Support Ireland’s free, independent LGBTQ+ media.

0 comments. Please sign in to comment.