ThinkProgress has published a fascinating series on the state of homelessness in Washington, D.C. According to ThinkProgress there are more than 11,000 homeless people living in and around Washington, D.C. The series is meant to highlight their stories, examining policies and looking at how people bounce back from homelessness. LGBT Tech’s Connect 4 Life program, which has been providing cell phones to homeless gay youth in the Washington D.C. area since 2015 was featured prominently in one of the articles.
The entire series is worth a read but the article highlighting the Connect 4 Life program does a great job of explaining the connection between technology and homelessness by profiling a young homeless woman who has benefitted from the program. Gay youth are a disproportionately large segment of the homeless population and as such face unique obstacles in dealing with homelessness. In Washington, D.C. alone, forty-three percent of homeless youth identify as LGBT with fifteen percent saying they were kicked out of their homes for their sexual orientation or identity. ThinkProgress profiles Mary Hicks-Pope, 23, who has been homeless for two years but considers her phone her lifeline. According to Mary, before getting a phone through the Connect 4 Life program it had been hard keeping in contact. She has lived in six different places in the last two years but having a phone gave her a sense of stability. Getting a phone allowed her to check her email, including job-related emails, which would have been harder or impossible previously. She even used her phone to type school papers when her computer charger died. Mary is very grateful for the Connect 4 Life program and believes it has made a huge difference in her life.
As a result of Mary’s experience, and of other homeless youth like her, the Connect 4 Life program has joined forces with three other non-profits to meet the needs of this underserved community and has launched as the PowerOn program. PowerOn was founded and is run by four non-profits working together make the biggest impact. Straight But Not Narrow, human-I-T, LGBT Tech and The Trevor Project. By taking on different roles from – collecting old tech, recycling tech, program management, distribution, to providing lifesaving information, the PowerOn team is able to manage and continue to expand this first-of-it’s-kind program across the country. Specifically, the PowerOn Campaign sets out to collect used technology, refurbish it and redistribute it to those centers, youth shelters and LGBT individuals who need it most. By providing technology such as laptops, tablets and smartphones these youth and centers are able to stay connected with vital services, supportive communities, friends, and family.
PowerOn aims serve vulnerable portions of the LGBT population around the country.
As Mary’s story shows, the need is urgent so the PowerOn program needs your help.
Individuals can donate their old or unwanted technology to PowerOn or can ask their companies to donate tech to PowerOn instead of recycling it. For a more direct donation, individuals can also donate a solar battery pack to homeless youth directly so they can charge their devices when an outlet is not available or convenient. At a minimum, you can help spread the word through social media and make others aware of the need and ways to contribute.