Giving sight to homeless LGBTQ youth

For the homeless it is a luxury to have glasses to see properly. Usually they are burdened with more immediate needs such as food, shelter, and personal hygiene. But not having glasses can mean not being able to see, which is a large problem, especially when you depend on shelters to survive. Just ask Clay Ferguson. The twenty-three year old recently got jumped in a New York City coffee shop. In addition to taking his identification, and cell phone, they also broke his glasses.

“I can’t see the street signs. I can’t barely see nothin,” Clay recounts.

But, there is a program that is trying to change that. ChildSight is a program of Helen Keller International that provides free glasses to underserved youth in need, like Clay. This initiative is not new. ChildSight has historically served children from low-income public schools. But last July it branched out to help another underserved community, the Ali Forney Center. The center is a Harlem-based LGBTQ youth homeless shelter that served 1,200 young people last year and directly housed 440 of them — including Clay Ferguson.

Homelessness is an epidemic within the LGBTQ youth community.  Estimations of homeless youth find as many as 40 percent identifying as part of the queer community. Compare that statistic to the 4 percent of the general population, which includes more than just youth, that identify as LGBTQ. One reason for the increased rate of homelessness is that about 40% of the young people the Ali Forney Center are kicked out of their home after coming out.

As a result, the majority of youth from the Ali Forney Center that are referred to ChildSight have had blurry vision for  years.

“We’re really interested in finding other populations that are vulnerable and have difficulties accessing health services,” Nick Kourgialis, VP of Eye Health at Helen Keller International. “Certainly this is a population that faces these challenges…When you are young, you see the world the way you see it and assume everyone else sees it the same way,” Kourgialis says. “But when someone puts lenses before their eyes, the look on these kids’ faces is like, ‘What the hell?’

ChildSight has been working with the Ali Forney Center for less than a year, through a grant from New York Community Trust. The group has examined 122 young people and their program has delivered 88 pairs of free eyeglasses to those who otherwise wouldn’t have access to improved sight.

Article via Mashable, 25 April 2016

Photo Glasses by Kate Brady [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


LGBTQ Community Continue to Struggle in Society

Many Americans today fall into the misconception that the LGBTQ community no longer struggle with inequality.

Inequality remains an issue for the queer community as society continues to raise discussion pertaining to whether or not they should be segregated from the rest of the community. The recent legalization of same-sex marriage is a big step closer to being equal — but society fails to realize that there is more to equality than just granting permission to marry.

In more than half the states today, employers are still legally permitted to fire employees based on their sexuality. When surveyed, the crowd that claimed to support equality for all also contradicted themselves with their own conflicted beliefs.

“Although the other half of those surveyed believe everyone deserves lawful rights, regardless of sexuality or gender identity, many of those same people still maintain beliefs that perpetuate inequality of the queer community, according to findings.”

The reality of these injustice acts prove that LGBTQ activism still exists for a reason. Inequality for the queer community and other communities that are also facing social obstacles will not end until society works together to make a change.

 

Article via Mashable, 21 January 2016
Photo: Protesting Mayor Sullivan’s veto of AO 64 by Mel Green [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]