Couple Provides Outreach Bags to City's Homeless

NEW YORK - At 24 years-old, Jayson Conner found himself sleeping on park benches in San Francisco, begging for his next meal.

Things like soap and deodorant were a luxury.

"People were very cruel. They would just walk by you and not even say hello, nothing, not even glance at you," Conner recalled.

Years of drug and alcohol addiction caught up to him leaving him no place to call his own.

"It was really, really rough. I didn't feel like I belonged to anything. You feel like you're just there, just breathing. That was it," Conner said.

Almost 15 years ago – still homeless – Jayson moved to New York, where he eventually met his now husband – Jeffrey Newman – and his life began to turnaround.  

He got clean and a job as a server in Midtown.  

Now, the pair is doing their part to help others living on the street.

"A person's circumstances doesn't make them anymore worthy of kindness and compassion, dignity and respect, and people forget that," Newman said.

Three years ago, the Queens couple founded the non-profit "Together Helping Others."

A few days a week, Conner and Newman walk around the city handing out backpacks to those in need.

They're filled with things like clean socks, toiletries, and hand warmers and blankets for cold nights.

"A lot of people will say 'you're giving me the whole bag?' And 'yes! this is all for you!" Conner said.

The pair is energizing others to do the same. Earlier this year, Conner and Newman launched “Backpacks for the Streets”. Now, instead of just the two of them, hundreds of volunteers canvas neighborhoods, handing out bags to the homeless. 

"Seeing this, seeing that we can do something to help people just like Jayson is incredibly inspiring to me," Newman said.

It's inspiring to Conner too who says he could have never imagined he would be touching the lives of so many.

"We want something that's going to last long after we are gone. And I believe we can do it. I believe if everyone gets together, we can change the world," Conner said.

So for pounding the pavement to give back to those in need, Jayson Conner and Jeffrey Newman are our New Yorkers of the Week.

Mobile clinic offers free medical help to NYC’s homeless

Mobile clinic offers free medical help to NYC’s homeless

Posted: Dec 03, 2018 11:56 AM EST

Mobile clinic offers free medical help to NYC’s homeless

THE BRONX -

More than 60,000 homeless people sleep in New York City shelters, and many of them are families in need of medical resources. That's where the New York Children's Health Project steps in.

The mobile clinic, in conjunction with Montefiore Medical Center, acts as a doctor’s office for those in need.

It comes at no cost to the homeless community for services, including physicals, flu shots and other urgent medical needs. 

The New York Children's Health Project is one of 27 programs operated by Children's Health Fund, a nationwide nonprofit which ensures high quality healthcare to America's most disadvantaged children. 

Anyone who would like to donate to the project can visit their website.

Homelessness in NYC reaches record high as economy rebounds

Spotlight: Homelessness in NYC reaches record high as economy rebounds

Source: Xinhua| 2018-11-22 05:05:12|Editor: yan

NEW YORK, Nov. 21 (Xinhua) -- Winter is officially in town, with the first snow last week and possibly the coldest Thanksgiving in a century freezing most of the U.S. East Coast. For tens of thousands of homeless New Yorkers, another months-long survival challenge has begun.

Homelessness is nothing new to New York, the largest city in the United States with a population of 8.6 million. People in rags can be spotted lying or begging in nearly every major street, subway station or public square, making newcomers wonder whether the city matches its glitz and glam described in movies and travel guides.

According to the latest statistics from the Coalition for the Homeless, the nation's oldest organization serving the homeless, such population has reached its highest level since the Great Depression. From shelters to the streets, nearly 70,000 people could hardly find a home in one of the richest cities in the world.

WORSENING SITUATION

Despite a strong economy and record-low unemployment in decades, there are around 63,000 New Yorkers living in the municipal shelter system every night, signaling a 77 percent hike from that 10 years ago. Nearly three quarters of them are families with children.

They do not include the people on the street. According to Urban Pathways, a nonprofit organization serving homeless adults in New York since 1975, more than 3,800 people are sleeping outdoors across the city's five boroughs.

The street homeless, in most cases, are not eligible for shelters or unwilling to move in. Many of them suffer from chronic diseases, severe disabilities, mental illness or substance abuse.

Some factors contributed to homelessness, including eviction, domestic violence, and job loss, according to the researches by homeless-serving organizations. Many pointed out that homeless issue here is ultimately a housing problem.

New York City has been home to both the richest and poorest of the country -- with the top 1 percent earning 40 percent of the city's income and 1 in 5 New Yorkers rated as poor. However, it's the rich who decide how the cost of living would go, including housing and rental prices.

According to a 2017 study by the real estate website Zillow, nearly 3,000 more people would fall into homelessness with 5 percent of rent increase on average.

"It's the disconnection between what people have as resources and what it costs to live here (which leads to the homelessness)," said Frederick Shack, CEO of the Urban Pathways. "If we don't solve that problem, we're going to continue to have substantial numbers of people living in shelter," he added.

JOINT EFFORTS IN NEED

When Bill de Blasio took office as the mayor of New York in 2014, he was determined to tackle the unprecedented homeless crisis by preventing evictions, reinstalling a rental subsidy program, and promising to allocate 15,000 units of affordable housing to the homeless households. In a report titled "Turning the Tide on Homelessness" published in 2017, the mayor again announced a plan to reduce the number of homeless people to about 57,500 in five years.

Plans hardly catch up with the reality as the city gets more expensive everyday. The number of people in the shelter system has actually increased by 23 percent over the past four years.

"His commitment still doesn't match the need," said Shack, but he didn't blame de Blasio for that because the mayor has demonstrated huge progress compared with his predecessors by recognizing the problem. "I'm not going to be overly critical. I'm going to keep pushing him to do more, but I'm also going to acknowledge what he's already done," said the CEO.

In Shack's view, putting the homeless into supportive housing doesn't cost that much as most people imagine. When a homeless individual encounters health emergency or violates social order, the cost of public resources, such as emergency facilities, police force, and even jail, is not cheap at all.

"The cost associated with maintaining a person on the street can be upwards to 20,000 to 24,000 dollars a year. The cost of taking that same person into a supportive housing program, maybe slightly more, maybe 1,500 dollars more than it would cost on the street," he explained. "But I think it's a much better investment of public resources."

The long-term goal of Urban Pathways is moving the street homeless indoors. Staff would go out in pairs and reach out to the homeless, persuading them into the organization's over 500 self-developed housing units located across the city, where individuals could live in a shared or private room.

In this way, they don't have to obey certain rules and curfews, or regularly talk to a case manager as in the shelters. The only requirement for them is not being involved in major crimes. The organization will also help the homeless get their deserved Supplemental Security Income and other benefits.

For Shack's staff, being rejected is an everyday situation. But they would not give up. Instead, they try to invite the homeless into their drop-in centers, giving them food and offering places for a shower. Shack believes that keeping a relationship with the homeless and meeting their needs will bring them closer to getting to a point where they would consider moving indoors eventually.

Still, Shack believes that the governments at all levels are indispensable in tackling the chronic issue, as social organizations are often challenged with a shortage of funding.

"The state (government) can do a lot more than it does in terms of homelessness," he said. "And the 60,000 plus people that you see in the shelter system, I'd say we could resolve that within a month if the federal government were committed to providing an adequate supply of section eight vouchers that would provide people with an opportunity to access housing at the market level, and they are required to pay 30 percent of a family's income to support it."

But the federal government "has been absent basically for a number of years," he lamented.

In Shack's opinion, forging a partnership between housing providers like his organization and the government is essential to effectively address the issue. "Getting government to partner with providers and planning solutions together is something that's going to be really important," said the CEO who has worked in social services for 28 years.

"My expectation is there's collaboration. There's a social problem. You (the government) recognize a problem; We understand what some of the technologies are needed in solutions. Then we work closely with the government to craft solutions and become a partnership. I think that really works well," he added.

4th Annual Walk for Warmth

The 4th annual Walk for Warmth started with 15 brave souls leaving Wesley House (501 Sixth St, B’klyn) at 7:00 AM on October 8th 2017. One of the 15 was 8 year old Sowazi (Waz) Datillo, the youngest walker ever to join us. We headed to Flatbush Avenue and then to the Brooklyn Bridge. The weather was warm but wet. By the time we reached the first stop in the financial district of Manhattan, we were a little water logged. We met up with Ed Casey there.

All of us realized that we would eventually go home and dry out; not true for the homeless.

Then we prepared for the second leg of the journey along the east side of Manhattan.  Dr Jayakummar and her group of friends made an excellent go of it. Lorna, Kathy, Latisha, Paris, Xenia, Dianne, Donna, Tariq, and the two Michaels rounded out the troupe.

Most of us made it to lunch in sight of the Queensboro Bridge and we were feelin’ groovy.

After lunch, we crossed to Queens and proceeded to trek back through Hunter’s Point and Long Island City to Brooklyn for a refreshment stop in chic Williamsburg. A few of us dropped out but eventually the remainder of the intrepid group made it back to Wesley House.

Thanks

Jody for The Sleeping Bag Project NYC

Walk For Warmth - October 9th 2016

The Walk for Warmth is always scheduled for the Sunday before Columbus Day. By then, the summer heat has dissipated and the weather is usually nice for a long walk. About 20 to 25 people were scheduled to make the 20 mile trip. However, this year Hurricane Matthew reached out and touched us. The weather was wet and windy with a promise of clearer skies in the late morning.

As the walk is the main fundraiser for The Sleeping Bag Project NYC, eleven intrepid souls braved the elements and made the first leg of the trek. With rain gear and an occasional umbrella the group walked past a virtually empty Brooklyn Bridge and stopped at the Starbucks on West Broadway.

A twelfth soul joined us there and we left to walk the West Side Greenway with hopes of nicer weather. Matthew had other plans for us. The rain and wind worsened and we dragged ourselves into The Boat Basin Café on 79th St. We were wet and cold by now and despite portable heaters we could not really warm up.

A decision was made to shorten the walk. We walked down to Times Square and took a train to Barclay Center and then walked back to our starting point. We only did a little more than 15 miles of the planned 20 miles but …

We could end our misery – the homeless cannot!

We could get out of the weather – the homeless cannot!

I cannot thank the participants of the walk enough. You all showed real heart.

Thank you.

I cannot thank the people who donated money enough.

Thank you.

Matthew touched us! We can touch those who are less fortunate than we are.

 Thank you

Jody Yarmush for The Sleeping Bag Project NYC