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Equality Wellbeing

The Ruth Ellis Center gives a home to LGBTQ+ people in need

Safe spaces, where you can go and be yourself without fear of rejection, are incredibly important for the LGBTQ+ youth community, who are at a disproportionate risk of being bullied because of their identities. 

Sometimes the lives that LGBTQ+ people are coming from are purely unsustainable and they need support or new housing, and that’s what a place like the Ruth Ellis Clairmont Center is for.

The Ruth Ellis Center began a foster program about a decade ago to little fanfare, not wanting to draw attention to themselves due to the overall acceptance or lack thereof of the LGBTQ+ community. In contrast, they recently held a ribbon cutting unveiling their new permanent supportive housing and services facility for LGBTQ+ young people. Hundreds of visitors and community members were joined by a parade of local and national politicians.

“Nationwide, up to 40% of all youth experiencing homelessness identify as LGBTQ, to combat this disparity Ruth Ellis Center has developed Clairmount Center,” the organization tells Smiley News. “This 43 – unit permanent supportive housing program for young people experiencing chronic homelessness and living with a disability opened in September 2022. This facility offers integrated health services, career readiness and skill building programs, community spaces, and a youth advisory art therapy studio. Ruth Ellis Center considered all social determinants of health and wellbeing when deciding the location and design of the building.”

The home is named for Ruth Ellis, a Black lesbian born in 1899 who always kept her doors open for queer people in need. 

The building offers not just affordable housing but also health services and even built-in, but well-hidden safety features to keep the residents safe in what is becoming an incredibly polarizing climate for the community. 

“Many of our LGBTQ community are at a higher rate of homelessness, exposing them to violence,” says Michigan Representative Rashida Tlaib, who secured $1 million in federal funding for the Clairmount Center and was on hand for its opening. “[If] you live [at the Clairmount Center], you get the services you need, and the love that you need, and the public health access that you need.”

This article aligns with the UN SDG Good Health and Wellbeing.

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Equality

This grocery store lets you pay what you like

As the cost of living increases, people throughout the United States are stretched thinner by the day.

The housing crisis is already exacerbating the cost of living enough, and now people are struggling to make simple ends meet.

According to the USDA, in 2021, 13.5 million US households experienced food insecurity, meaning there were times when there wasn’t enough money to feed everyone in the family. 

MARSH Grocery in St. Louis wants to make the growing prices more palatable for the everyday shopper. When you shop there, you can pay what you like.

Pay what you like?

It’s not as simple as paying a few cents for a whole cart of groceries, but the grocery store lets people pay up to 20 percent less or more on items than the listed price opening up an affordable, high-quality food option in the area. 

Serving as a non-profit grocer, you might assume they struggle to break even – but apparently the option to pay more on grocery options nearly matches dollars lost making breaking even fairly easy.

“It feels like exactly what I hoped for, that we would create connections between relational economy, sustainability, climate resilience, community building, quality of life,” MARSH founder Beth Neff says.

“Even if we don’t yet sell enough food to say we made money at the end of the day, we’re certainly creating a foundation for those things.”

This article aligns with the UN SDG Good Health and Wellbeing.

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Equality

These businesses take Pride beyond Pride month

We all know the feeling – a brand you love goes all out for Pride month, with new social media graphics and a long, mushy Instagram post about how much they appreciate their LGBTQIA+ employees. Then, at 00:00 1 July, boom. It’s gone.

But never fear, there are businesses out there doing their bit to support the LGBTQIA+ community, whether it’s June or December.

We’ve scoured through Stonewall’s Top 100 Employers list, which is compiled from the Workplace Equality Index – the UK’s leading benchmarking tool for LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace, to take our pick of businesses doing their bit.

Coca-Cola

You heard right – the fizzy-pop giant is one of the most inclusive employers in the world. With a 100% rating on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, a way of measuring equality and inclusion of American businesses, Coca-Cola is doing their part.

Based in the USA, the business has a history of supporting local and national policies that benefit the LGBTQIA+ community and was one of the first corporations to publicly support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. They have since launched the ‘Next Generation LGBTQ Leaders’ Initiative’ – a program designed to connect, educate and inspire young LGBTQ leaders.

Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service

Not what you were expecting, right? Yes, the Fire and Rescue Service in Cheshire specifically is hugely supportive of LGBTQIA+ employees, and members of the local community.

They have an online guide for employees on how to be better allies to their LGBTQIA+ colleagues and engage in Pride events across their local communities – complete with a rainbow fire engine.

Sky

The media giant is number nine on Stonewall’s top 100 employers of 2022, and for good reason.

The company has committed itself to engaging with minorities of all kinds and has invested in several programmes to encourage diversity in its workplace. This includes their Graduate Inclusion Week and the MAMA Youth Project, both of which take applications from young people who are from diverse backgrounds. They also mark and celebrate key LGBTQIA+ events throughout the year, and describe their policies as ‘fully inclusive’.

Tesco

Tesco is hugely supportive of their LGBTQIA+ employees, earning them Network Group of the Year 2022 from Stonewall UK.

They have a network available for their LGBTQIA+ employees, as well as year-round, confidential support. They also continuously encourage other employees to step up as allies with content like a video series, for LGBTQIA+ History Month, informative blogs for awareness days throughout the year, and events exploring the history of Pride, asexuality and ace spectrum identities, LGBTQIA+ people’s experiences of HIV/AIDS, and non-binary equality.

Network Rail

Network Rail also has an LGBTQIA+ network for their employees to access, called Archway. Archway is run entirely by volunteers, provides confidential support to colleagues, reviews policies and practices with an LGBTQIA+ lens, and runs awareness-raising events throughout the year.

During the COVID-19 lockdowns, Archway made sure to reach out to members of their community and encourage them to attend ‘InclusiviTea’ virtual coffee events to provide support and connection.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Reduced Inequalities.

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Equality

How to get accessible Letters from Santa

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) is running its Letters from Santa campaign again this Christmas.

Sounds festive!

It is! Every year at Christmas the RNIB allows children the chance to get a letter from Father Christmas, but in a format that is accessible to them. 

Amazing! What kind of adjustments do they provide?

The letters are delivered to children who are blind or visually impaired and can be sent as an audio letter, or in large print or braille. For these children, it’s gives the opportunity to experience the Christmas spirit in a way that is adapted to them and their needs!

If you would like to sign a child up for a Letter from Santa, you can do so on the RNIB website.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Reduced Inequalities.

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Equality

Meet the world’s first disabled astronaut

The European Space Agency (ESA) has chosen its first disabled astronaut.

That sounds amazing! Tell me more.

John McFall is a British Paralympic sprinter, who lost his leg in a motorcycle accident at 19, and continued to run with a prosthesis.

He has been chosen as part of the ESA’s Parastronaut Feasability Project, and joins the 2022 European Space Agency Astronaut Group – becoming the world’s first disabled astronaut.

Why are disabled astronauts only being considered now?

Space exploration is expensive, meaning there are a lot of restrictions on who can and cannot blast off. For example, people below a certain height have not been able to apply until now, because they need to be able to reach all the controls in the spacecraft.

So what happens now?

Now, John will begin his training with the ESA, who will be working with him to figure out how best to accommodate him.

There’s no guarantee that John will be able to go into space one day, but this is certainly a move in the right direction for people with disabilities who are interested in space.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Reduced Inequalities.

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Equality

More than just pretty metals, this jewellery gives back

Pivot is a jewellery shop with a difference.

Much more than just pretty metals, Pivot works with people who are experiencing homelessness and living in hostels, providing them with training on how to make, and sell, jewellery.

“I always say to people, jewellery is really just the pilot,” explains Alice Moxley, founder and CEO. “You could apply this theory to so many different types of products.”

Pivot truly began when Alice spent five months working in a YMCA in North London. Her experiences opened her eyes to the issues facing people experiencing homelessness, including the barriers to employment that exist when living in temporary housing. From not having a permanent address, to having to work in specific, restrictive hours, it isn’t easy to get a job – and without a job, there’s no money for food or housing… and so the cycle continues.

“You get into these really vicious cycles and people get so demotivated – I’m being very general here,” she says. “It’s very hard to get out of this rut. And so the idea was, if you can’t leave the hostel, how about I bring work to you?”

Many people experiencing homelessness also suffer with mental health issues; it becomes a vicious cycle that can prevent many people from finding a job, or leaving temporary accommodation. A 2014 study by the Mental Health Foundation found 80% of homeless people in England reported that they had mental health issues, with 45% having been diagnosed with a mental health condition.

By bringing work to the hostel, Alice and her colleagues at Pivot give people experiencing homelessness the opportunity to engage with other people, and provide them with a creative outlet that is not only fulfilling, but provides them with a usable, profitable skill.

Over the course of 12 weeks, Pivot holds weekly, four-hour sessions in hostels that consist of training people to make jewellery. Pivot provides financial support for these individuals over the course of the 12 weeks, gives them one-to-one coaching and support, and provides them with the information and tools they need to design, market and sell their creations.

“We create jewellery that we can make in a safe way, a hostel environment. So it’s very specifically designed to be made by people who don’t have any prior skill,” says Alice. “It’s quite simple, but it’s not over simplistic. You get … satisfaction from making it.”

At the end of the 12-week course, the participants are taken to a market where they can sell what they have made for a profit – all done with the intention of offering them employment at Pivot afterwards.

“On our payroll, two out of five of our employees have come out of the hostel,” explains Alice. Even those who don’t go on to be employed by Pivot, who are still a small company, now have new skills that they can take elsewhere.

Trained as an architect, Alice initially used jewellery making as a creative outlet in her own life, before coming up with the concept for Pivot. Getting off the ground just 49 days before the first UK COVID-19 lockdown, it truly has been a trial by fire.

Today, Pivot sells the jewellery made by employees who were in temporary accommodation on their website and at market stalls across London. 

By providing training and one-to-one support for those experiencing homelessness and living in temporary accommodation, they are giving people the tools that they need to move forward – one step at a time.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Reduced Inequalities and No Poverty.

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Equality Wellbeing

A village for the homeless in Salt Lake City

More than 580,000 people across the US experienced homelessness in 2021, with that number expected to rise with the cost of living crisis.

States across the country are dealing with that in different ways. In Salt Lake City, Utah, they’re looking to take out two birds with one stone with their newest project: a fully sustainable housing development for people experiencing chronic homelessness, serving an environmental impact goal while also providing housing for those in need.

Living on the Other Side

The organization behind the development is known as The Other Side Village, and has an end goal to provide a permanent housing option for people that are chronically unsheltered in the area.

The program is primarily targeting people dealing with a mental health or drug condition, as those are the people that tend to have the most difficulty maintaining consistent housing.

The village will be split into two smaller neighborhoods both featuring 30 cottage-style homes that are fully equipped with housing amenities. It will have a bodega, and plans to start a donut shop and succulent plant arrangement business. The goal of the businesses is to provide the people living their employment opportunities if they are struggling to find it elsewhere.

People behind The Other Side Village understand the difficulties of life and what makes a place like the village so enticing. For example, Maurice “Moe” Egan, the Director of Neighbor Recruitment for the Other Side, was homeless himself and until he found a place that served him right found it hard to make any changes.

“After many attempts at drug rehabs and serving multiple jail sentences, Moe was accepted to Delancey Street, a place that changed his life,” their website says. “It was at Delancey Street that Moe was finally able to recalibrate his moral compass and overcome traumas of the past.”

The goal is to have the village open by 2023. You can donate to support its mission on the Other Side Village website.

This article aligns with the UN SDG No Poverty.

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Equality

Meet the man behind icanyoucantoo

icanyoucantoo is a grassroots social enterprise that coaches and mentors youngsters, from under-privileged communities. We managed to speak to Nilesh Dosa, the founder of icanyoucantoo, while at Anthropy.

“Having grown up in a deprived part of London, I understand first-hand the challenges faced by many young people and their families,” says Nilseh. “My passion, in all that I do, is clearly evident and is commented upon regularly.

“This is simply because ‘I get it’ – I am basically going ‘back home’ to give the next generation the opportunities and insights that I myself did not receive.”

Find out more: https://www.icanyoucantoo.co.uk/

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Equality

It’s time to celebrate gender diversity through self-expression

For many of us, fashion is self-expression. It’s a way to show people who we are and what we care about before we open our mouths. 

For others, however, fashion can be difficult to navigate – especially for members of the LGBTQIA+ community. The world has come a long way in supporting them, but mainstream fashion brands often feel inaccessible to trans and gender-non-conforming people. Changing rooms and clothing ranges have strict gender labels and, in any case, buying an entirely new wardrobe is incredibly expensive.

“It’s difficult to shop for clothes if there’s no information available on how to select your personalised style in a gender expression that is new to you,” says Santi Sorrenti, the founder of G(end)er Swap CIC, who struggled with that exact issue when they were first experimenting with their gender expression. 

G(end)er Swap is the first LGBTQIA+ clothing outreach organisation based in the UK, which supports trans and gender non-conforming people and gives them access to, not just clothing that better reflects their identities, but also a supportive community. 

“When I was questioning my gender and wanted to experiment with my expression, I turned to charity shops to find my clothes,” explains Santi. “High street shops often barred me from using the men’s changing room. I started looking for queer clothes swaps or organisations at a time when I felt a lot of gender confusion, and needed a space to meet like-minded individuals.”

Santi couldn’t find much, besides one-off clothing swap events at universities. “So, I decided to combine my style experiences, creative expertise and my need for more gender-affirming spaces to create G(end)er Swap.”

The organisation means a lot to them. “Its existence is very much a product of my own journey with self-expression.

“In as much as it has helped people discover their sense of style and learn more about assembling their own wardrobe, it’s also been a space where I can experiment with my style at events and have the opportunity to share alternative looks that otherwise aren’t recognised by mainstream fashion spaces.”

G(end)er Swap puts on in-person events such as binder fittings and style workshops. Research has found that LGBTQIA+ young people are twice as likely to feel lonely and isolated compared to their peers, making organisations like G(end)er Swap so important for fostering relationships.

“We mainly focus on trans and gender non-conforming folk who struggle with how to shop for/find clothes during a transition in expressions,” says Santi, who has a Master’s in Women’s Studies from Oxford University, where they conducted research exploring trans and gender non-conforming fashion activism. “G(end)er Swap means freedom of self-expression for anyone and everyone. It hopefully inspires folks to step outside of societal norms and to create their own fashion choices and rules.”

In 2021, G(end)er Swap was shortlisted for the National Diversity Awards, and was featured on the Social Enterprise UK Honour Roll in 2020.

“G(end)er Swap, in a sense, is anti-fashion. We work to defy societal expectations of what one should dress like, according to your gender identity. Instead, we celebrate all forms of expression that are unique to every individual.”

This article aligns with the UN SDG Reduced Inequalities.

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Equality

Martin Lewis’ selfless act for charity sector

Martin Lewis is once again doing the most for the nation by donating to small charities on his Twitter account.

Hooray! Tell us more.

To celebrate nearing two million followers on Twitter, Martin Lewis aka MoneySavingExpert is using his platform to promote and donate to small charities.

With the cost of living crisis in the UK, everyone has to tighten their belts, which means charities – especially smaller ones – are suffering from a lack of donations.

This is just one more reason why Martin’s act of kindness is so huge.

So, what is he doing?

Martin will be donating £500 to a registered UK charity selected by follower number two million (or as close as he can get), and a following £500 to one chosen by a random, pre-existing follower. 

According to Martin’s Twitter account, the second charity will be selected by the highly scientific method of closing his eyes and jabbing wildly at the screen – something we fully support.

Thank you, Martin Lewis, for everything you do.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Partnerships for the Goals.