Alex Minsky GQ Spread Continues to Inspire People With Disabilities

Alex Minsky, featured in the GQ Magazine spread: Active Duty: Alex Minsky Shows You How to Dress for the Gym, continues to inspire people with disabilties world wide.

BFL spoke to Minsky last year, about his journey after he lost his leg when his truck rolled over an IED (improvised explosive device) in Afghanistan.

GQ Writes: Say good-bye to your mesh lacrosse shorts and take your Greek Week shirt to Goodwill. Now fashion designers are making clothes you can work out in (this RLX shirt even has sensors that track your heart rate), while athletic companies are making workout clothes that look designer. Seize the moment by wearing a mix of the two. If this gear is tough enough for an Afghanistan vet like Minsky, it’s tough enough for you.

See the photo shoot.

» Read More

BFL’s Paul Feuerstein City Limits Op Ed: Gov. Needs to Restore Money for Domestic Violence Victims

From City Limits

Gov. Needs to Restore Money for Domestic Violence Victims


A recent New York City Council report found that incidents of domestic violence in public housing operated by NYCHA had doubled since 2009. And yet at the same time, our elected officials are cutting funding to groups that help domestic violence victims access legal services, receive counseling and find safe transitional housing.

When Governor Cuomo and state Budget Director Robert Megna directed state agencies to hold spending at current levels, they decided to ensure that these important programs remain underfunded. It doesn’t have to be this way. With a $4 billion state budget surplus at his disposal, the governor can make a much-needed $354 million investment in the human-services sector to protect programs helping thousands of domestic violence victims.

In the past, state funding for Non-Residential Domestic Violence programs totaled $3 million. During FY 2010-2012, $2.49 million was lost, leaving just $510,000 for crisis hotlines, support groups, counseling services and advocacy statewide. To date the full $3 million has not been restored. This loss of funding has resulted in 387,250 fewer victims being served and a loss of 85 jobs statewide. As funding has decreased, incidents of domestic violence have increased. Even if funding was restored to $3 million pre-recession levels, it would not be enough to keep up with the demand of services. Health-related costs of domestic violence alone are greater than $5.8 billion annually.

This is also amid increases in domestic violence cases and related homicides across the state. In 2013, the NYPD responded to 280,531 domestic violence incidents, approximately 765 per day. Additionally, domestic violence advocates answered approximately 99,719 hotline calls requesting services and support. It is organizations like ours that are helping the men and women who find themselves in these dangerous situations but we now have to restrict the services we provide because of limited financial resources.

The need for services for disabled survivors of domestic violence in New York City is compelling, while the resources available to this population are limited.

Barrier Free Living has made it part of its mission to work with disabled domestic-violence victims and meet their unique needs. At any given time, our Non-Residential Secret Garden program serves approximately 200 women and men. With an increase in cases, but flat contract funding, we are unable to hire a psychiatrist to work with the people we serve dealing with mental health issues or a Spanish speaking social worker to work with an increasing number of Latina survivors. As contract funding stays stagnant, we will continue to provide these lifeline services, but are constantly walking on a tight rope overlooking a financial disaster.

Since 2005 we have operated within New York City’s Family Justice Centers. We are given access to free space and office equipment, but the funding we receive for salaries and other expenses has remained unchanged since we started this program. We have not been able to give our Center workers salary increases, all while expenses for health insurance and other costs of doing business have increased. It forces us to find other sources of funding for what is supposed to be a government funded program.

Accessible and affordable human services are crucial to a domestic violence victim’s survival. Non-residential domestic violence intervention programs help women needing counseling support, and emergency shelter services provide refuge for women and their families in unstable circumstances. Still, we fail to invest in these critical human services.

Now is the right time for the governor to change that.

A statewide coalition of more than 80 human services providers has requested $354 million dollars to be included in the governor’s Executive Budget.

This much needed investment in the human services nonprofit sector should get support from our elected leaders, especially in light of the disturbing rise in domestic violence cases. By continuing a policy of flat funding and zero growth, Cuomo is leaving behind the victims who are looking for help out of what seems like a hopeless situation. We ask the governor to provide hope and reinvest in the organizations that serve this fragile population.

» Read More

BFL Talks to Noah Galloway Men’s Health Magazine Cover Model & Inspiration

Noah Galloway, the Iraq war vet and amputee who beat out 1200 competitors to be Men’s Health magazine’s cover model for November, 2014 is an inspiration to people with disabilities nationwide.

We got a chance to talk to Noah about the cover, how he got through challenging times after his accident, and his secrets for a great gym routine.

BFL: Your story is a great inspiration to the people we work with in our shelters, men and women with disabilities who have been homeless, or are survivors of domestic violence. Can you tell us about the moment after the accident, when things turned around for you. When you decided to move forward in an empowering way. What was it that helped you make this change?

Noah: There was a moment where I looked in the mirror, and instead of concentrating on what I lost, I had a moment where I knew I had to concentrate on what I had left. I really wanted to be a better person for my children. My kids are absolutely my biggest motivator.

BFL: To people with a disability who may at one point feel hopeless or challenged, what can you say to them to help them move forward in their lives and reach their dreams?

Noah: People with disabilities would focus on what we’re capable of now. Don’t think about what you can’t do – think about what you can do. People tend to put a limit on things because it’s all they know, but they should be raising the bar. Challenge yourself.

BFL: For people with disabilities, who are inspired by your incredible athleticism, what tips can you offer in terms of finding innovative ways to exercise and reach healthy goals? Did you develop new systems to work out at the gym?

Noah: Just like any athlete, it’s about muscle contraction. Anywhere there’s a muscle, there’s a way to contract it. You don’t have to bench press to work you pecs. Contract those muscles; tighten and release, tighten and release.  If you want to improve something, whether you’re injured or not, you concentrate on that muscle or muscle group. If you want to improve it, push it. As long as the muscle contracts you can move it.

As for a new system of working out, the way I work out is I do things on my right side, then other days I concentrate on my injured side. So I do right side, then left side. The trick to fitness is to make it as simple as possible. Too many people try to make it complicated – injury or not – and  they get wrapped up in that. It’s ll about simplicity. It can be done just by working the muscle; you don’t need to think about why. That’s all working out is. Taking a weight and moving it from point A to point B. A dumbbell, your body weight – it’ doesn’t matter. Just move it.

BFL: What is it you most hope to achieve as a result of the exposure you have gained with the Men’s Health magazine cover?

Noah: The attention and the exposure I’ve received since being on the cover of Men’s Health has been incredible. And my only true hope is that I’m able to reach out to someone who didn’t know my story and it motivated them enough to live a healthier life. I don’t expect folks to do the races I do. Everyone can do something regardless of their injuries. Even if it’s eating a healthier diet, if that’s all you do, then you’ve made an improvement. I hope to reach as many people as possible and share that message.

BFL: You have become an inspiration to so many. Who is it that inspires you?

Noah: Great question. And actually, the people who inspire me are children with disabilities and their parents. My favorite stories that I hear are from parents of children with disabilities who look up to me. That keeps  me going. Knowing that I can be a positive role  model to children living with disabilities.

BFL: What ways do you think people (and government) can help make the world more accessible to people with disabilities?

Noah: Education. Bottom line. So often, people – and the government – have the right intentions, but not enough education on the capabilities of those who are disabled, and what our disabilities really are. Once people are educated on the capabilities, then you’ll see better and more accessibility. But it has to start at education.


» Read More

Michelle Reyes Joins Secret Garden

Born and raised as part of a large deaf family in Brooklyn, Michelle Reyes set her sights on giving back to the community after graduating from Gallaudet University.

This year, she joined Barrier Free Living’s Secret Garden Domestic Violence program as a social worker, counseling both Deaf/HOH and hearing individuals. We caught up with Michelle to talk about her first year with BFL.

How did you learn about Barrier Free Living, and what drew you to our mission?

I learned about Barrier Free Living when I was working as a Deafness Advocate for the Brooklyn Center of the Disabled many years ago, however my first experience working with Barrier Free Living was in 2007 as a BSW intern for Gallaudet University. Having firsthand experience as a person with a disability and working as a social worker allows me the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of individuals with disabilities.

What is it that you find most unique about the agency, in relation to the work you are doing here?  

While there are many other Domestic Violence programs for able people, BFL only services people with disabilities which in itself is unique.

What do you hope to accomplish in your first year, any particular goals or projects you are looking forward to?

Providing my clients with access to services they need to live a safe, productive and independent life is and will always be my goal.

What do you like to do in your spare time, when not at work?

When I am not working, I am tending to my very active 3 year old. We spend time sightseeing and a lot of quality time with family and friends.


» Read More

Click escape button if your abuser enters the room