Jeffrey Newman and Jayson Conner
Jeffrey Newman (left) and Jayson Conner have been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City.
Since early March, they have been working night and day to provide New Yorkers experiencing homelessness with backpacks full of necessities like hand sanitizer, antibacterial wipes, gloves, masks, and sleeping bags. It’s a mission that Newman and Conner began two years ago when they founded Together Helping Others, a nonprofit seeking to help people living on the streets.
Since they started their first program, Backpacks for the Street, in March 2018, Newman, Conner, and a growing number of volunteers have given away 4,000 backpacks, 18,000 feminine hygiene products, 13,000 Mylar blankets, and much more.
The idea was simple: Stock backpacks full of items including two pairs of socks, T-shirts, gloves, hats, food items, and necessities like first aid kits, sewing kits, pen and paper, a flashlight, and toiletries like toothpaste/toothbrush, comb, shampoo, soap, and nail clippers.
“The homeless, even before COVID, are one of the most vulnerable and least helped demographics. Most feel invisible. People treat them like they are lower than pond scum at times. It is heartbreaking,” Newman tells The Advocate. “When COVID hit, it became clear immediately that the most vulnerable communities were the elderly, people with underlying illnesses, and the homeless. But of the three, only two — the elderly and people with underlying illnesses — were the ones people were trying to help and keep safe. Almost no one was talking about how to get supplies and care to the homeless.”
Since launching Backpacks for the Street, Newman, Conner, and their growing number of volunteers have given away 4,000 backpacks, 18,000 feminine hygiene products, 13,000 Mylar blankets, and much more. But as the pandemic went into full swing, the program had to act swiftly.
Since March 2020, the nonprofit has given away 1,300 backpacks with COVID-specific supplies.
“We went from 30 to 60 backpacks every other week in one or two neighborhoods to doing 100 backpacks and COVID kits three or four times a week in four boroughs out of a U-Haul van, with only two additional volunteers at a time to maintain social distancing and keep everyone safe,” Newman explains.
“We refuse to lose that human element of what makes our program and our efforts work and drives us. We found safe ways to spend time with each person we help to make sure they have everything they need and to give them our number in case they need anything else.”
With temperatures in New York City still in the 30s and 40s at night, Newman and Conner are making sure to give out winter coats and sleeping bags that volunteers have donated as well.
“There are some efforts in some of the major cities to house the homeless in hotels, but it’s not consistent, or enough by any means,” Newman explains of the response from local governments. “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. There is no increase in SNAP/food stamps. Shelters are overflowing and mixing people who are positive for COVID-19 in with everyone else, adding to a complete state of fear and anxiety and tension.”
In contrast, grassroots organizations like Together Helping Others are rising up to answer the call.
“[We] are not concerned about red tape or bureaucracy and we are not worrying about our electability,” he says. “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, cared for, and supplied with everything they need to prevent being exposed to (or potentially exposing others to) COVID-19.”
“What really frustrates me is that we do not have Lady Gaga or Elton John or any of the pretty celebrities doing fundraiser or concerts for the homeless affected by COVID-19, despite them being among the top 5 percent of the most vulnerable,” Newman argues.
“It reminds me of those early years of AIDS when you would see the celebs and politicians rally around AIDS babies or children in Africa because they were the safe demographic to support. [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.”
“A few things have caught me by surprise since the pandemic began,” Newman says. “I was here for 9/11, where the terrorist attack on NYC brought people together and unified the city to take each other arm in arm and stand up against the common enemy.”
“Now, this horrific event – a terrorist attack of its kind – has brought out the ugliness in some people, where it is every man for himself. People are fighting and screaming over toilet paper and a carton of eggs. And the homeless, they get even more discriminated than usual. In a non-COVID universe they are treated as worthless or invisible, now they are scorned and viewed as dirty and diseased. People act as if because they are homeless, they must have the virus and will somehow infect them if they make eye contact. It is infuriating, ignorant and mindboggling wrong.”
“The homeless are also much more visible right now because of the shelter in place. The only people out in Times Square, Penn Station, or Grand Central are the homeless. There are more of them too, as the loss of jobs has put people out on the streets or couch surfing.”
When asked if there were any common themes volunteers found in the people they were serving, Newman responds: “Fear. Gratitude. Confusion. Compassion.”
“The people we help are scared they will get sick and that the hate against them will become greater out of ignorance,” he says. “Homeless have no access to COVID supplies and little options to assistance. There is tremendous gratitude.”
“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. People are realizing homelessness is not necessarily a choice or something anyone can foresee and that a person’s circumstances should not define their worth.”
Learn more about how you can help at BackpacksForTheStreet.org.
Check out the original story here: The Advocate Magazine.
Have you found the right one, or are you still searching?
Join a gay dating site where you can meet single guys from any town or city. Rely instead on Gay Dating Solutions to do the work for you! Don’t get fooled by free offers made by other sites. Gay Dating Solutions is offering a FREE 6 month promotion ABSOLUTELY no strings, request for credit card numbers, etc…it is the only site that is truly free to join!
Sign-up now: www.gaydatingsolutions.com
Download our mobile apps: https://appurl.io/jd0jaqp0
Like us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/GayDating101
Tweet us: twitter.com/GayDating101
Tags: #BigBankChallenge #BohemianKissChallenge #EqualityActJapan #StopAsianHate 2020 Olympics Aaron Schock Adam Castillejo Adam Rippon addiction ageism Aging AhTave AIDS Aime Wichtendal Alaska Alex Morse Almost Love America's Next Top Model American Medical Association Amy Coney Barrett Annise Parker Antes Que El Mundo Se Acabe Anti-Asian Violence Anti-LGBTQ ANTM anxiety Aptima HIV-1 Arizona Armie Hammer astrology At-home date Atlanta Atlanta Black Pride Atlanta Nightlife Atlanta Pride Atlanta Pride Run Austin Swink Austin Texas Backpacks for the Street Basel Abou Hamrah BFI Flare Bisexual BLACK GAY MEN Black LGBTQ Atlanta Black Lives Matter Black Love Bohemian Rhapsody Boston Boston MA Brian Sims Broadway bully Bullying California Call Me By Your Name Canada Capital Pride Capitalism Cason Crane Celebrity News censorship Chemistry Chemsex Chicago Chicago IL Chris Evans Christian proselytizing Christianity Christmas Christmas movie Christmas Movies Chucky Circus of Books civil unions Cody McCook Colorado Comedy coming out commentary compatibility Confidence Congress conspiracy theory Conversion therapy CoronaVirus COVID COVID-19 Covid-19 vaccine daddy Dallas Dallas Gay Bars Dallas Gayborhood Dallas Texas Danica Roem Daniel Harding Daniel Howell Date night dating Dating Apps dating rut dating tips DC Pride Dead to Me Denver Depression discrimination Disney Documentary Dolf Pasker Dolly Parton Domestic Violence Donald Trump Donna Price Drag Race drag racing Dustin Lance Black election Election 2020 Election Day Elite Employment Entertainment Entertainment news epidemic Fabio Fasoli Family family gatherings Film Finding True Love First Date First Date Etiquette first date ideas first date tips Flirting Tips Flirty Dancing Florida Fort Lauderdale Franklin Graham Freddie Mercury Garrett Clayton gay gay asian gay asian men Gay Atlanta Gay beaches Gay Boston Gay Chicago Gay Couple Gay Couples Gay Culture Gay Dallas Gay Dallas Nightlife gay dating gay dating advice gay dating app gay dating apps Gay Dating Solutions Gay Dating Tips gay discrimination gay film Gay Florida Gay Fort Lauderdale Gay Health Gay Holiday Movie Gay Houston gay kiss Gay Love Advice gay marriage gay marriage proposal gay men Gay Miami gay midlife Gay Mountaineer Gay Movies Gay New York Gay Nurse Gay Panic Gay Pride gay relationship advice gay relationship tips gay relationships Gay Scene gay seniors gay sex gay singles Gay Soldier Gay Travel Gay Twitter Gay Wedding gay weddings Gay Widower Gays Over COVID gaysian Gen Z Generation Z Georgia Gert Kasteel Ghosting GLAAD GOP Gorsuch Guy Vandenberg Gym Gays Haaz Sleiman Hallmark Halloween Hate Crime Health HGVT HIV HIV prevention HIV stigma HIV treatment HIV vaccine HIV/AIDS hobbies Holi-date Holiday Film Holiday Movies Holidays Hollywood Holyoke Homophobia hooking up hookup hookup culture Hot Vax Summer House Hunters Houston Texas Houston TX Hulu Ian Jordan Indya Moore Instagay Instagram intersex Intimacy Iowa Iowa caucus isolation It's A Sin Jake Gyllenhaal James Bushe Japan Jaymes Vaughan Jayson Conner Jeffrey Newman Jennifer Tilly Jewish Jewish persecution Joe Biden Jonathan Bennett Josef Salvat Jussi-Pekka Kajaala Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg JVN Jwan Yosef Karamo Brown Kristine Stolakis Lady Gaga Lesbian lesbian couple Let It Snow LGBT LGBT Travel Guide LGBT-Free Zones LGBTQ LGBTQ Asians LGBTQ Atlanta LGBTQ Boston LGBTQ Chicago LGBTQ Dallas LGBTQ discrimination LGBTQ employees LGBTQ Family LGBTQ Film LGBTQ Film Festival LGBTQ Films LGBTQ flag LGBTQ Fort Lauderdale LGBTQ Health LGBTQ Houston LGBTQ Miami LGBTQ movies LGBTQ New York LGBTQ NYC LGBTQ Pride LGBTQ retirees LGBTQ retirement LGBTQ Rights LGBTQ Seniors LGBTQ Victory Institute LGBTQ Youth Life Lifetime Lifetime TV Network Linda Warren lockdown London LGBTIQ+ Film Festival loneliness Love Victor Luke Evans Male Nurse Malik Brown marriage equality marriage proposal Marsha P Johnson Marvel Marvin Cortes Massachusetts mature gay dating mental health Mexico Miami Miami Beach Miami Beach Pride Miami Florida Michael Cashman Michael Henry Middle-aged gay men midlife Modern Family mormon Mr. Right Muscle gays music video My Gay Match NASCAR National Coming Out Day Nationwide Conversion Therapy Ban Neil Gorsuch Netflix Netflix Special Nevada New Year's Resolution New York New York City Nonbinary North Dakota Northern Ute tribe Nurse Appreciation Week NYC NYC Events NYC Pride NYC Pride 2021 Oak Lawn Obergefell v. Hodges older gay man Omander Omar Ayuso One True Pairing online dating online dating apps online dating tips online gay dating Online trolls Open Relationship Operation Hyacinth OTP Outfest Outfest LA 2021 Outfest Los Angeles Pan-African Pride pandemic Paper Moons Pat Robertson Pennsylvania Perez Hilton personality personality type Pete Buttigieg Pink Capitalism Poland Politics polyamorous polyamorous relationship polyamorous relationships Pope Francis Pose power bottom Pray Away PrEP pride Pride 2021 Pride Afrique Pride Flag Pride Month Prince Harry profile pic Puerto Vallarta quarantine Queer eye Queer Film Queer Films Queer Holiday Movies Queer Lawmakers Queer Love Story Queer Santa Queer Youth racism Rafa Olarra Rainbow Wave Reddit Relationship relationship advice Relationship Tips relationships religion Rep. Andy Biggs Republican retirement Ricky Martin rom-com Romantic Comedy Ryan Murphy Ryan O’Connell Samaritan’s Purse same sex marriage Same Sex Relationships Same Sex Wedding Same-Sex Couples Same-Sex Kiss same-sex marriage ban Schitt’s Creek Score Miami Score Nightclub Scott Evans Scott Wiener Section 28 self isolation self-care Senior Gay Dating Senior Gay Men senior gays Senior Prom Seven Summits sex Sex Education sex life sexual identity sexual preference sexual racism sexuality short film Shy Gay Guys Single All the Way single gay man Single Gay Men Single Gays Single Young Gays social distancing social isolation social media Social Security Somerville sports Stonewall Stonewall Riots straight men Super Bowl ads Super Bowl commercials Super Bowl LIV Supreme Court Switzerland Syfy Syria Tan France Television Tennessee The Boys in the Band The Center on Colfax The Christmas Setup The Eternals The First The Thing About Harry Threesome throuple TikTok Tom Daley toxic masculinity Transgender Travel Travis Shumake true love Trump administration Turner Free TV series Tweets Twitter Unconditional Love United Methodist Church US economy US Supreme Court Valentine's day viral video Virginia Washington DC Web Series Wedding Workplace workplace discrimination World AIDS Day World Pride young gay men Youth YouTube