There is nothing more important to our work than getting out from behind our desk and actually spending time with our Good People, watching them as they go about their work.
On a bitter cold day last week we trekked into Manhattan to visit Bruce and Liz Gitlin at the New York Center for Law and Justice. To be deaf or hard of hearing is a challenge; to be deaf or hard of hearing and indigent is a further challenge; to be deaf or hard of hearing and indigent in New York City is beyond most of us. In founding the Center (and this is the only center in the entire world with a full-time staff), Bruce and Liz have committed themselves to not only help individuals in their struggles to navigate the “system” but to also change the system to make it possible for people with hearing disabilities to get a fair and equitable chance, no matter where they must interact with bureaucracy of any kind. Access to sign language interpreters or other accepted forms of communication simply must be available.
In the two hours we sat in the Center’s cozy single room office it became very clear that the need for services is considerable and truly life-saving. First to walk through the door was a young woman who had appeared weeks before wishing to gain asylum in America. Sapphire arrived in NY from Jamaica after fleeing a country where as a homosexual she was repeatedly raped and beaten not only for her sexual orientation but also for her disability. In fact, she witnessed the murder of her partner which prompted her flight to New York. Sapphire was visiting to pick up a warm winter coat, hat and gloves which the Good People Fund had coincidentally provided when Liz told us Sapphire’s story weeks before. It was particularly meaningful to be present and anonymously gain further understanding of Sapphire’s situation.
But a short time later, an elderly woman appeared and her story was once again testament to the Gitlin’s mission. In this case the woman had lost or had stolen all of her personal papers including her bank card. For the more than two months that this problem remained unresolved, her bank account had been emptied of the monthly funds she receives as a disabled and indigent individual. Could homelessness be far from her future?
How would any of us navigate these situations? We are so happy to be able to help Bruce and Liz and the clients they save.