By Richard Hack
For Jeffrey Newman, 52, and his fiancé Jason Conner, 42, a single backpack has become a symbol of caring and kindness to homeless men and women throughout New York City. At a time when Manhattan is the epicenter of COVID-19, it is nothing less than the difference between life and death.
Using a rented U-Haul, Newman and Conner started an all-volunteer charity called Backpacks for the Streets in which the pair, plus an additional two members, delivers backpacks filled with masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and other essential medical supplies directly to New York’s homeless population.
In a country where a uncoordinated national effort has allowed over 1,400,000 COVID-19 cases in the United States, killing nearly 85,000 (with nearly 21,000 deaths in Manhattan alone), the 1,200 backpacks that Newman and Conner’s non-profit has given away in the past two years is an example of human kindness toward the most disenfranchised among us.
“For the people out on the street, the biggest thing when you talk to people out there is that they feel invisible, and they feel like nobody sees them as a human being,” Newman, 52, told NBC News. “The thing about a backpack is that it gives people hope, it says, ‘Hey, we see you, and you matter.’”