Transcript of Episode 3: Serving Homeless and Transgender Youth

The following is the transcript for episode 3: Serving Homeless and Transgender Youth. You can access the podcast and shownotes for this episode by clicking here

Aisha

Welcome back to the What Works in Youth HIV Podcast! This is Aisha Moore the What Works in Youth HIV projector director and your host.

In today’s episode, we are talking to two guests who work with some of the most vulnerable populations: homeless youth and the transgender community.

First, you’ll meet Legacee Medina. Legacee is a young person who works with homeless youth through Housing Works, an organization addressing  the crises of homelessness and HIV/AIDS through advocacy and comprehensive services. Legacee has  also founded Legacee Kares, a recently launched app that connects homeless youth to services and resources in New York City.

Here’s my colleague, Narita with Legacee.

Narita

Alright so let’s get started. If you could please kick us off by introducing yourself and telling us a little bit about you and the organization that you are affiliated with.

Legacee

So my name is Legacee Medina. That's L-E-G-A-C-E-E. I am the CEO and founder of Legacee Kares, a resource app that I created to help homeless youth navigate the resources of New York City. I grew up in New York. Being a formerly homeless young person myself, I understand what it's like and to come from that world. And now currently working with young people, and they're still not able to access the resources of New York City, I had to create Legacee Kares. I also work for Housing Works, as a client liaison.

 

Making sure that the people of New York City and our young people understand that decisions need to stop being made about us, without us.

 

I organize to make sure that people ... talk to our senators, and our congressmen in our neighborhood and show up to rallies and protests to make sure our voices are heard.

Narita

Perfect! So, let's start talking about Housing Works and then follow that up with more about Legacee Kares. Can you tell me how you got involved with Housing Works and what sparked the idea of advocating and making sure that your voice along with your peers' voices were heard?

Legacee

I've always been in the field of advocating. I've been doing this since I was 18 years old.

 

...Somebody that was in a higher up position noticed how vocal I was I guess you would say and Housing Works has a job training program that two years ago they created because in the beginning of the HIV/AID epidemic people were losing their jobs, people weren't receiving proper health care. People were not being hired at jobs so what Housing Works did was they created a program specifically designed for people who were HIV Positive or had an AIDs diagnosis who received job training and at the end of that job training, get hired as full time staff at the agency.

Legacee

At first I thought I wasn't going to have a chance. However, they opened it up to people who have mental health diagnosis so because I have mental diagnosis, I was able to get into the program

 

It took me 15 months to graduate, right, because I did 3 months of pre vocational so that was a lot of making me look at myself and do self reflection on who I am, where I've been and where do I want to go.

 

If you're going to work for Housing Works, going through the job training program and you complete it, you are not just going through any kind of job training program, like you get real life skills and real job situations

 

I'm very proud of my agency and the changes we are able to make in New York City. Legacee Kares came about because somebody from the youth department from Housing Works referred me to Act Up and Act Up was having a youth town hall on LGBTQ homelessness in New York City.

Narita

Can you let us know what Act Up is?

Legacee

Yes, so Act Up is a nonpartisan agency... Act Up used to do all kinds of radical, civil disobedience day to get people to pay attention.

 

I did the youth town hall and it seem that nobody in the room understood how the world is changing in the eyes of our young homeless people. They know ... like we need to future out a way to catch up with what is going on.

 

Legacee Kares...it's a resource app. So it has food pantries, it has soup kitchens. It has clothing rooms. It has drop in centers. It has shelters in New York City. It has church information. You can actually text right from the app and information will come to your nearest phone. It has a mental health guide. It has LGBTQ specific resources also. It has legal help and advice and centers where you can walk into no matter what your different crisis situation is. It really has a lot of things not just our young people can use. If your a case manager or you're just a person in crisis that needs the nearest food pantry and it can still help you.

Narita

So basically it seems like it brings together the variety of resources that one might need when dealing with either HIV, whether it's diagnosis, education, where they might need to go to learn how to find a specific skill for job training. That's very comprehensive as far as the types of things an individual would need. And it's great that you can find it all in one spot.

Legacee

Yes, I thought that it was time.

Narita

Can you talk to me a little bit more about the challenges that a particular ... for people that are homeless dealing with HIV or in some cases AIDS? What are some of the challenges that you've come across or that individuals that you've worked with, that maybe our listeners don't know about?

Legacee

So, a lot of our young people don't know that there are things that are specifically designed for them. Housing services, there are places that take only HIV positive young people, right but they don't even know these places exist. It's all about navigating their resources, you know what I mean? There's no signs that really say how or where you get access that's help. Or sometimes when they go to access this help right, you have to be culturally competent to give this help to the community and what your service is because they are fearful, they're already afraid. There are so many things that are already going on. So if they're turned off by the time they enter your agency, they will never come back to seek help or it's gonna take them a fairly long time before they go to seek help again.

Aisha

You just heard from Legacee Medina who shared some great insight on some of the challenges homeless youth face when trying to access HIV or other health resources.

Let’s now turn to Regina. Regina is a transgender woman who has personal and professional experience working with the trans community. She understands the challenges of this community and the various obstacles they face, particular when trying to access health care.  Here's Regina’s story.

Regina

My name is Regina Gerbier. I'm 25. I work for Latinos Salud in Florida. We have three different locations. We have one in Wilton Manors, South Beach, and Kendall. My job title is Miami Beach Field Outreach Worker. I work in the Miami Beach location.

Narita

What are some of the most pressing issues that you currently face particularly with some of the younger age groups that you serve, so with youth who are at risk for HIV for example?

Regina

There's a lot of disparities you would say or issues that the youth face, especially being part of the LGBT community. There's homelessness. There is stigma related issues. With homelessness, I tend to focus mainly on the trans community because as a transgender woman that's kind of the population that I want to impact so for trans women down here in south Florida, unfortunately if you're a homeless trans woman and you don't, you aren't HIV-positive there's very little that can be done for you. It's kind of like, fend for yourself. However, if you are HIV-positive there are organizations that can help you, you know have places to stay and get those resources that will help you get on your feet.

HIV has no prejudices. Anybody is at risk for contracting HIV.

Narita

I want to talk a little bit more about the homeless population that you mentioned. What are some of, in specific, some of the challenges and and the barriers that they face whether that may be accessing services or even within the health provider environment? What are some of the challenges that they have to face that other populations may take for granted?

Regina

Well, one of the big ones is again...to focus on the trans population is lack of access.

An employer who will hire a trans person. At least here in south Florida it's very difficult for an employer to hire trans women. Florida is an at will state so an employer can choose to fire you at any point, same way as you can choose to quit at any point without giving reason.

 

Lack of employment is one of the huge issues that the homeless youth have because if you don't have a job then you can't have a steady income. Without a steady income, you can't have a home or your bills paid or access to food or access to health care.

 

Some health care providers lack the LGBT knowledge down here at least. That becomes a little bit of a difficulty when it comes to homeless youth trying to have access to health care that everybody should have.

Narita

And then if we talk about the trans population as a whole... what are some of the disparities... they face in accessing health care especially catering to who they are and who they identify with?

Regina

Well, one of the biggest issues is that there's lack of knowledge and lack of education in health care providers so for instance if you have a trans man who may need a mammogram some insurances may not cover that because if he has gone through his entire name change process and he has gone through his gender marker change then an insurance provider may say, "Why would a man require a pap smear?" or why would a man require a mammogram of the type that some trans men may require. Same with trans women.

Narita

I want to talk more about the trans community and emerging trends in HIV education and prevention...What have you noticed in regards to HIV education and prevention within the trans community and their use or knowledge of PrEP?

Regina

Unfortunately the trans community is, it's a very difficult community to reach out to and actually impact. There's several reasons for that. Many of the trans women that I've met are, because they can't find a steady job because an employer won't employ them because they're trans, they resort to sex work and because they resort to sex work they feel that if they publicly reach out to a health care provider to get tested or let them know that they're part of this sex work they might get in trouble or they might be outed if you will as a sex worker.

 

What I try to tell clients who are involved in sex work and are transgender individuals is that PrEP is a great way to have that power of protection against HIV in your hands because it's a pill that you have to take every day and the chances of you contracting HIV while on PrEP are extremely low. They go down significantly. Let's say they have clients that don't want to use protection with them, PrEP is something that they have in their hands that will protect them against the virus. But again, I always let people know that PrEP is only something that will protect you against HIV because many people have a notion that it will protect them against other STIs and that's not the case.

 

Then I've had situations with clients where unfortunately some health care providers are not educated on the PrEP matter. So for instance, I had a client one time, I had several clients but one in specific, he went to his primary care physician asking for PrEP because it was something that he felt would fit his sexual needs

 

Instead of having a position where he was trying to understand the patient's needs and ask them why this is something they felt was necessary for them, the physician instead turned the other way and had more of a judgemental approach for it, asking, letting them know that they shouldn't be having condomless sex and the better option for them was to simply use a condom instead of PrEP. Situations like that will deter people from seeking a provider who will prescribe them PrEP.

Narita

You've shared some great personal anecdotes and with your work with clients that I think is, serves as a good learning opportunity for a variety of individuals especially including physicians.

Regina

When you go to a doctor you shouldn't feel ashamed of your sexual history, you shouldn't feel ashamed of your sexual life. You should feel empowered and you should feel safe and you should feel that your provider is trying to help you stay safe and healthy.

Narita

Great and tell me more about the organization. What do you guys do and who are some of the populations that you work with?

Regina

We do a lot of things at Latinos Salud. Our main one is testing and prevention. We provide free HIV testing. We provide free STD testing that includes gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis and Hepatitis-C. We also have social groups. We have empowerment groups. We provide linkage to care for people who come out reactive or are positive for something.

 

Our main focus so we at Latinos Salud we will test anybody. Anybody who walks in through our doors, we test and we offer our services to them but our main focus race is the Latino community or the men of color and other minorities, men who sleep with men and young men who sleep with men.

Narita

Can you talk a little bit about how your, how Latinos Salud gains access to your clients? How do you reach them?

Regina

We have a lot of...different tools that we use to reach our community, our target community. One of the main ones is using social platforms such as Facebook or dating sites like Grinder, Jacked, Scruff, A for A, all of those social media aspects, Instagram, all of those are ways that we can get our organization's name out there and let people know that we have these services that sometimes people will pay for, we offer them for free.

 

We have agreements with bars and clubs locally where we have our mobile unit and we will park it right in front of those bars or clubs and have our sign saying we're offering these free services. Then, you know a person will go into the van, have a free HIV and Hepatitis-C test and with that they'll know that they can also stop by our office and have a free STD panel as well.

Narita

Great, so really going where the community already is.

Regina

Right, so we go where the community really is. We will go, when we do outreach, is we will go to those bars, we will go to those clubs where the community is located.

Narita

You shared a little bit about your personal experience and some of the professional experience that you've encountered in working with clients... is there anything that continues to surprise you...?

Regina

Something that continues to surprise me is how amazing it is that this situation, it has no prejudices. STIs and HIV, anybody can be affected by this.

Especially with trans women, we are emerging more and more. We need to have that power in our hands to say, I'm leading a healthy sexual lifestyle and I am protecting myself.

Narita

Great. Well, thank you so much, Regina.

Aisha

I’d like to thank both of our podcast guests for sharing their stories on today’s episode.

I also want to thank you, our listeners for continuing to tune in! Connect with us on Twitter or on SoundCloud. And if you want to learn more about Legacee or Regina  visit whatworksinyouthhiv.org. That’s also where you can find information about HIV prevention.

Page last updated: May 2017