Empowering homeless LGBT youth with technology

Celebrating the LGBT Technology Institute’s PowerOn Program

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By: Ian Tang

Over 650,000 LGBT youth, totaling more than 40% of America’s homeless youth population, experience homelessness. Already vulnerable, they confront additional threats to their safety and face other socioeconomic challenges as a result of homelessness. To help, the LGBT Technology Institute, human-I-T, Straight But Not Narrow, and The Trevor Project combined to create PowerOn, an initiative to provide homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth with access to technology and the ability to get online. Verizon proudly supports the PowerOn Program and recently hosted a celebration in its honor at our D.C. office.

Connectivity is an essential resource for all, but it can be particularly important for the individuals the PowerOn Program serves. LGBT youth are five times more likely to search for information about sexuality online. They are almost twice as likely to use the internet to find health information. More than half of this population who are not out to peers in person connect with other LGBT individuals via the internet. Technology offers crucial opportunities to LGBT youth to overcome the barriers and isolation they can encounter. Unfortunately, when sexual orientation results in parental rejection, deep family conflicts, and housing insecurity, these individuals can also lose access to technology.

PowerOn partners with established LGBT community and youth centers, including the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center in Allentown, PA, to distribute cell phones, laptops, and tablets. Adrian Shanker, Bradbury-Sullivan’s Founder and Executive Director, spoke passionately about the PowerOn partnership at Verizon’s recent event. Adrian highlighted the importance of the PowerOn Program for his center specifically through the story of a program beneficiary. This particular youth skipped lunch every day, forced to spend 30 minutes in the library using the school’s broadband to complete her homework. This story and many others inspired Adrian to apply for PowerOn, and the program stepped up to support that student and many others.

PowerOn relies on device donations, recycling unwanted devices to individuals who need them. To date, Verizon’s support has supported the distribution of 800 devices to 11 shelters and community centers nationwide. The event at our D.C. offices celebrated that support, and was the perfect opportunity to announce PowerOn’s new partnership with Daikin Global, which pledged to begin recycling all of the company’s technology through PowerOn by 2019, starting with the plant in Verona, VA. This growth will fuel the continued expansion of PowerOn, and the program’s plan to add new centers in 2018 and 2019. As a long-time supporter, we’re thrilled that other companies recognize PowerOn’s value and want to help it grow. Initiatives like this offer invaluable insight into how society can help those who may be struggling, and Verizon is committed to improving lives in communities we serve.

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Ian Tang joined the Verizon Public Policy and Strategic Alliances team as a summer intern. He is a rising Second Year at The George Washington University, pursuing a Masters in Public Policy with a concentration in Technology Policy.

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