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Whose Corner Is It, Anyway?

$27,481 of $28,800 goal

Raised by 529 people in 13 months
Whose Corner Is It Anyway is a Western MA harm reduction task force led by injection-drug-using low-income and survival sex workers who are mostly street-based, many of whom are houseless or living in unstable housing .  We low-income sex workers have created a weekly community and organizing meeting for ourselves--a haven. At each weekly meeting we provide a high-calorie meal/snacks and cigarettes for each other, as well as access to a bad date list, needle exchange and other harm reduction materials such as Narcan and fentanyl test strips, childcare, transportation, and often, toiletry and clothing donations.  At the larger meetings every two weeks, we hold trainings led by local and national organizing and social service experts on  harm reduction topics that are relevant to us as a community, such as a Know Your Rights training from SWOP Behind Bars, a session on navigating the housing and shelter system with YWCA staff,  as well as PEP (post exposure prophylaxis from HIV) and PrEP (pre-exposure prohylaxis from HIV) info and access informational session with Tapestry Health workers. Some trainings we have in the works are ones on stimulant harm reduction, disability rights, and unlearning transmisogyny. We've also incubated many nascent campaigns we're working on in the long term, such as creating a sensitivity training for best practices for treating opioid-using sex workers for local hospitals and our participation in #ReframeTheBlame, a feminist-led national drug users' rights campaign in  which drug users are signing symbolic Do Not Prosecute orders in the event of their deaths from overdose to protest drug-induced homicide laws. 

The focus of the project is on the needs and goals of drug-using Western Mass street workers. Street workers take the brunt of the criminalization and stigma of sex work and so they deserve to be the ones calling the shots on how to fight back. The problem is that in order for street worker activists to lead projects like this one, they need to have the resources to do so. Time spent meeting and organizing is time away from survival work, which is often a financial loss low-income street workers can’t afford. The gift cards provided by some non-profits as a response to this problem do not meet the needs of their recipients. They also demonstrate how non-profits and social services often infantilize poor people and drug users, not trusting them to make the best choices for themselves with their own money.

That’s why we've been raising cold hard cash for a task force meeting every week, to provide a $25 stipend for 20 street workers or other low-income sex workers to attend, as well as $15 on the off weeks for attendance at the agenda-setting premeetings. Their work and leadership are valuable and deserve to be compensated. The street workers of this region constantly suffer from assaults, arrests, and police harassment. A $15-$25 stipend every week is the least we can give them as a community to support their struggle against this marginalization.

However, the scale of our project has been growing at an astounding rate, and we are now seeing 36-46 sex workers attend every weekly meeting when we started off seeing  8-20 people at each!  We've recently had to cut stipends for the first time in a year by $5 for two meetings. We want to continue to offer every drug-using survival sex worker who needs one a place at our table. We aim to keep offering a stipend close to living wage and will not hold meetings in which we have to offer one below minimum wage.  The organizing efforts of low-income injection-drug using workers are unique and invaluable in a sex workers' rights movement where privileged sex workers are over-represented and a harm reduction and drug users' union movement in which women and sex workers have often taken a back seat. We hope that you can help us broaden our fundraising efforts to keep up with the amazing recruitment efforts of our membership and the obvious, desperate need for our task force's work in our area.
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We need $633 more this weekend at Whose Corner Is It Anyway--Western MA's harm reduction task force led by survival sex workers who inject drugs--to have full stipends at our next meeting! I always freak out on Saturday morning doing weekend fundraising, as Friday night is a fairly crappy one for donations, and I pin a lot of our hope on Saturday. So, uh, Saturday? Please don't fail us! 2 things: Firstly, we were asked this week by a group member to provide an Uber to a detox far away. The person found their own ride ultimately, but we were wondering whether this would be something donors would also be interested in funding--as part of this fundraiser? Perhaps in a separate fund? We'd love to hear your ideas. Secondly, and somewhat relatedly seeing as a lot of ppl will be going to detox in the colder months-- I gave you a sketch of our activities last week, our plans for next meeting and for the coming months in my last update, but here's where I remind you again that the meetings in and of themselves become more vital for our community as the weather gets colder. Many of our members are houseless, while many more are unstably housed, prone to be kicked out at any point in time by clients, friends, and family members, and often trading sex for a place to stay as well as doing street sex work. For our houseless members, winter is a nightmarish time to be injecting drugs outside--the harms of injecting are multiplied when your veins are cold and it's that much harder to get a hit. The process takes longer and the injector incurs more abrasions. Life-threatening infections like endocarditis are much more likely, and we had a spate of these infections send members to the hospital last winter-- where stigma ensures they're often treated badly and left in withdrawal, forced to sign out against medical advice and take their chances on the street again. Even those of our members who are housed for the time being find street sex work that much more difficult and miserable in the winter, especially now as political pressures and those with a stake in gentrification are increasing street sex work arrests in our area. In this context, two hours out of the cold with a high-calorie meal, needle exchange and harm reduction supplies, clothing, toiletries, and cigarettes provided, as well as a stipend for their organizing work so that our members know they won't be dopesick that night--those things become invaluable. *Community* becomes invaluable. We'll also be hosting a repeat of our housing access presentation by YWCA staff in the next two weeks so those of our members who are eligible for housing of their own have a chance to get it. Anyway, as we move into winter, we're counting on the consistency of your help. We also just can't thank you enough for what you've already done. So, we're unutterably, unbelievably appreciative of all you've done--please give this week if you can and share this fundraiser praising us to the skies in non-local networks free of ppl who are assholes about drug use and sex work if you can't!
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This weekend at Whose Corner Is It Anyway, W MA's harm reduction task force led by survival sex workers who inject drugs, thanks to your crazy generosity recently, we only need $757 to make full stipends for our next meeting! Last week at our agenda-setting premeeting, we spent a lot of time talking about what a sex worker is and what it means to be a member of WCIIA, and how those two questions relate, as well as going over our personal stories in the industry. As our numbers have grown to 35-46 group members at every meeting, these foundational questions become more important. It's also vital for working-class, low-income, and survival sex workers to have full access to movement terms and ideas for full participation in those spaces. At this upcoming meeting, we'll be doing a group power analysis of what drives exacerbated criminalization in our area in order to create a long term strategy, and we'll be talking about a DPH research project on fentanyl that's coming to the Springfield area. Look out for our December 17th International Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers in-house event, a stimulant harm reduction training, disability rights and housing access presentations, and more in the coming months! Plus, as usual, at every meeting we provide needle exchange and harm reduction supplies, a home-cooked meal (courtesy of our cooking committee)/snacks, cigarettes, toiletries and clothing, transportation, and childcare--by low-income sex workers for low-income sex workers.

We've also added $20 to our weekly number to begin contributing to the fundraiser for the fentanyl test strips ( https://www.gofundme.com/fentanyl-test-strips-for-w-ma) our ally Jess Tilley, the executive director of New England Users Union, provides us every week. Though the state of California distributes these strips to all its harm reduction orgs, MA is still reluctant to fund the "offlabel use" of urinalysis strips to directly test street drugs, even as they've been shown to make drug users tend to be more cautious and even though their error rate is negligible. So, Jess is the ONLY source for fentanyl test strips in New England, and not only does she mail them far and wide to NEUU chapters all over and even to drug users' unions in W Va and elsewhere, she graciously supplies us every week. We'd like to start giving back, and we hope you can help with that.

At this point, we can't even muster the words to thank you the way you deserve. But here, I'll try: thank you so fucking much for your donations past and future, and we hope you can continue to give and share us with non-local networks free of drug and sex work prohibitionist assholes!
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Thanks to three recent donations in the amounts of $500, $350, and $250, as well as some smaller ones, we actually met our goal for the next meeting, though last night things looked decidedly bleak! THANK YOU. Hey, but if you'd like to get a start on helping us meet our number for next weekend, I'm not gonna stop you.

This Veteran's Day weekend, please remember the veterans who do survival sex work and/or inject drugs, ppl pathologized and underserved by the VA who must deal with the trauma of both militarization and criminalization. The picture below is John, my late partner of 11 years, in 2010 w/his patented skeptical-about-Vet's-Day-expression. He was a three tour, highly decorated Vietnam vet, and also a life-long injection drug user and a survival sex worker in his youth. It's easy for small town politicians to pose with squeaky clean respectable veterans in parades--much harder, it seems, for criminalized vets suffering from PTSD to get the care and material resources they need from a top heavy bureaucracy like the VA. In Northampton, our VA at Leeds is so corrupt that the board has had to be entirely overhauled 5 times. John used to tell me about how VA staff at the PTSD ward had a betting pool going about which of their drug-using patients would die first. This is the system John had to interact with whenever he needed to get healthcare--so inefficient and so brutally stigmatizing that he would refuse to go in for his abscesses and we'd just have to ask around for unused antibiotic scripts. If you give to us or share this fundraiser this Veterans' Day weekend, please do so in honor of John and other vets who inject drugs and/or do survival sex work.
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We're in dire straits this weekend re fundraising at Whose Corner Is It Anyway, W MA's harm reduction task force led by survival sex workers who inject drugs--still need to make $911 for short stipends and about $1220 for full stipends. We made almost nothing last night. Even if we borrow from ourselves we need to make $588-$946, $434-$720 if I manage to donate what I want to this weekend. As I told you, we had to give out short stipends last meeting for the second time in our entire year-long history as a project, and we really don't want to be forced to give out short stipends two weeks in a row. As the weather grows colder and street sex work grows more difficult, dangerous, and wretched, our members rely more and more on the stipends provided at our meetings for stability--especially now that street sex work arrests are also increasing b/c of NIMBY pressure. Group members have actually stated that they're able to schedule doctor and welfare's office appointments the morning after we meet, knowing they won't be dopesick then. So, the stipends are thus desperately important, but so is everything else involved in meeting operation costs. As you know, at every meeting, needle exchange and harm reduction supplies, a home cooked high-calorie meal, cigarettes, childcare and transportation, and clothing and toiletries are provided by low-income drug-using sex workers for us. Check out my last update to see all our many plans for organizing, trainings, and events throughout the winter. Right now, though, just know that we know our demands have become high as our membership climbs, but our growing numbers prove the necessity of this weekly haven for our community. We're working on three grants this month, as well as allying with various orgs and individuals who will help us refine our beginner-level grantwriting skills, so we promise we won't be solely dependent on you forever. Please just show up to help us now--the way you've always been there for us in the sex worker, harm reduction, low-income rights, drug users union, prison abolition and anti-criminalization communities. As usual, please give now if you've been thinking of giving, and share us in non-local networks free of ppl who are assholes about drug use and sex work if you can't, along with testimonies to how utterly awesome we are. And as usual, thank you so fucking much for well...EVERYTHING.
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$27,481 of $28,800 goal

Raised by 529 people in 13 months
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