As someone who has experienced homelessness, I feel it is my duty to pull others up with me. Not duty as in, “I have to,” but duty as in “I want to.”
True Fellow Anthony Anderson is using technology to build up his community.
I was 11 years old when I first realized that my family was living in poverty. I mean, yes we struggled… but when everybody else around you is struggling as well, it was kind of hard writing the rules on who was living in poverty. My school was at 100% reduced lunch, honestly, the thing that separated the “rich” and the “poor” was who had the freshest cut and/or shoes. Those things I could balance because I really did not care. Yes, kids could be mean, but at least we ate every day. That all changed in what seemed like a blink of an eye. It was during one of the coldest winters in Gary, Indiana when the lights went out. We had no water, no heat, and no food. All we had at that moment was each other and that still did not seem like enough. This was the first of many experiences I had with homelessness. It honestly was not until I went to college that I really was able to get on my feet. It was the most financially stable I had ever been and it was a glimpse of hope.
Fast forward three short years and I am in awe of the opportunities I have been afforded. There were moments in life where I never saw myself with a cell phone, let alone a computer. Now I have both. From the Ubers that I order to the fancy mint lemonade that I decided to try because it helped cleanse your palate, as they say – these are things that I never thought I would be able to experience. So, at times, it is a struggle to fully enjoy these luxuries.
As someone who has experienced homelessness, I feel it is my duty to pull others up with me. Not duty as in, “I have to,” but duty as in “I want to.” There were so many people in my own life who reached out and sewed into my life and now I need to do the same for my other brother, sisters, and gender non-conforming siblings. The beautiful thing now is that technology has advanced so much that we can use it to build up our own community. For me, technology has been consistent in challenging me, educating me, and even liberating me. Technology lets you know that you are never alone and there are people out there who want to help. That is why it is so important that we use technology as a way of connecting our LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning) youth with sustainable resources.
I strongly believe that technology is a form of resistance, education, connection, and so much more. That’s why I was so pumped to find out that I was selected for this project. I have been able to learn so much more about what it actually takes to build a mobile app.
We’re developing a mobile app to help LGBTQ youth find safe housing and resources.
According to a recent study, 83.5% of youth experiencing homelessness use the internet at least once per week and 62% own a mobile phone. As the 2017 True Innovation Fellow, I’m working with the True Colors Fund to create the True Access mobile app – a tool that connects youth experiencing homelessness to safe and affirming services in their communities. We’ll be converting the listings from our online directory into a simple yet powerful app specifically geared toward youth experiencing homelessness. To be working with the True Colors Fund on this innovative new piece of technology has been such an honor.
I strongly believe that technology is a form of resistance, education, connection, and so much more. That’s why I was so pumped to find out that I was selected for this project. I have been able to learn so much more about what it actually takes to build a mobile app. My staff liaison at the True Colors Fund, Joe, has been so welcoming and has already shown how invested he is in seeing our project succeed. He has been working on this project for quite some time, so to be added on is a privilege. This summer, Joe and I will also be participating in the Opportunity Project’s design sprint, in which technologists and advocates team up to build digital tools for social impact. The Opportunity Project is spearheaded by the Department of Commerce and Department of Education. Along with this, I have been able to meet my other True Fellow peers and learn so much about their experiences and their beautiful resilience.
It takes a village to end LGBTQ youth homelessness.
They say it takes a community to raise a child. I really believe that. It takes a community to love, support, see that person grow, and thrive. My hope is that with our app, we can help communities help LGBTQ youth before they have to go through the struggles that come with experiencing homelessness. With that being said, I do not want to discount the fact that our youth have so much to offer us. As times change, culture changes, and our youth have the expertise in that. They are the ones living the experience and have a lot to say. Like Aaliyah said best, “Age ain’t nothing but a number.” So let’s start over, and change our perceptions of community in relation to technology. Our youth need us as much we need them. With this app, we can make a community, we can prevent homelessness, and most importantly we can empower/support our youth on their journey to thriving. Cheers to the 2017 True Fellows. It is an honor.
The True Innovation Fellowship is underwritten by Marriott International and we’re grateful for their support! Check out their #LoveTravels mosaic for Pride – the mosaic that raises money to end LGBT youth homelessness.
The True Access mobile app is made possible thanks to the generosity of the Samuel Freeman Charitable Trust and the T-Mobile Foundation.