Darrell Wimbush is back and forth from the kitchen in this church basement to the front door, handing out free meals to homeless LGBTQ young people. He knows how great the need is. He was once in their shoes and they let him know how worried they were about the coronavirus shutdowns.
What You Need To Know:
- New Alternatives, located on West 40th Street works to help LGBTQ young people transition out of the shelter system with education, life skills training and basic needs like food and hygiene.
- LGBTQ youth are disproportionately affected by homelessness, making up nearly 40 percent of the city’s homeless youth but only 7 percent of the youth population.
- Darrell Wimbush, once homeless and helped by New Alternatives, worked as a security guard at their space inside a midtown church.
- Executive Director Kate Barnhart says she always tries to hire former clients because they not only offer important insight, but they also serve as mentors and role models for success.
"The thing I kept hearing was about food and can we get more, so that's when I ultimately asked can we start making food for them to go," he told us.
Wimbush was living in a shelter in 2009. With the help of New Alternatives, which helps homeless LGBTQ young people transition out of the shelter system, he was able to turn his life around. Today he lives in Harlem and works here at New Alternatives as a security guard. But as the coronavirus shutdown began, he offered himself up as a chef.
"The need went from 100 meals a week to 400 meals a week," he said.
LGBTQ youth are disproportionately affected by homelessness, making up nearly 40 percent of the city’s homeless youth population. New Alternatives Executive Director Kate Barnhart says the pandemic exacerbated the challenges.
"Homeless youth can't access masks and hand sanitizer and things that people were stocking up on. You can't stock up on anything when you're homeless and have no money. This population struggles a great deal with issues around policing and the criminalization of homelessness," Barnhart told us.
"I've always tried to hire from the homeless people because I feel their experiences help us not only design programs but implement them," Barnhart added.
Wimbush also serves as a role model, mentor and source of inspiration.
Some other people around the church told us he always goes above and beyond and that everyone knows and loves him.
"When I hear 'you're going above and beyond for the clients,' I don't feel that's above and beyond, I feel like that's a part of my job. I'm supposed to ensure the safety of the clients and that's just not being a security guard honestly, being here, it's showing that they're ok as a whole," Wimbush said.
Each meal also includes masks and other necessities and of course, a lot of pride.