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W MA street worker leader stipends

$8,000 of $8,800 goal

Raised by 173 people in 7 months
We've started a harm reduction task force by and for sex workers here in Western MA, led by drug-using survival workers.  The group also has a regional sex worker peer advocacy and support group component. As the group slowly coheres, we hope to work on sealing records, policing and civil rights issues, addressing ID and documentation problems, and many other policy and service angles beyond simply providing harm reduction materials that the sex worker community needs.  We've begun working on security protocols for the community, and we have the resources to do referrals to a wide variety of medical services and to provide harm reduction education. 

The focus of the project is on the needs and goals of 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 this project, 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, 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 other 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.
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Hey there, after taking it easy on fundraising ask frequency because of SESTA-related financial hardship in the sex worker community, we've finally reached a point where we could really use some help this week for the stipend fund for our survival-worker-led sex worker harm reduction task force.

Our agenda setting pre-meeting this week was awesome and incredibly organized: we've become masters at setting a tight agenda for the big general meetings in a relatively short time. That's fortunate, b/c we've decided to set aside time to exchange harm reduction supplies at the premeetings as well--we served 8 attendees this meeting. We generally end up exchanging harm reduction supplies with 12-19 workers at every biweekly big meeting, and now that we'll also be doing it for the 8-12 workers who regularly show up at the premeetings in between, that's a chance to supply a good number of injection drug using sex workers with sterile materials after hours every week at a time when our syringe exchange is closed and the only other way to obtain clean needles is to buy them at local bodegas--and forget about being able to get your hands on tourniquets, cookers, cottons, sterile water, saline, alcohol wipes, etc.

Next meeting, we'll be doing further work on the project of collecting individual experiences to incorporate into a sensitivity training for area hospitals on best practices treating opioid-using sex workers.

Then we'll segue into a discussion on this Tits and Sass piece ( http://titsandsass.com/bareback-re-opening-the-dialogue-on-safer-sex-in-the-age-of-uu/) by trafficking survivor, ex street worker, and harm reduction and HIV activist/service worker Laura Lemoon on how condoms are not the end all be all of sexual harm reduction in the age of undetectable viral loads equaling untransmissable viruses: "We need to re-open the conversation around what safe sex means in America and internationally, because while condoms can be an excellent means of STI protection, they are by no means a realistic option for every person in every situation. And sex workers in particular need to be involved in this conversation, since it is the most marginalized groups among us—drug-using sex workers, sex working trans women, street workers, sex workers of color, and people who fit into many or all of the above categories—who most often find ourselves in situations in which providing bareback services is our only option if we want to make a living."

Finally, we'll be having a discussion about group norms together that the group as a whole felt was necessary. Look out for these possible presentations this summer at future meetings too as we chase these leads: a safe consumption facility advocacy training, training on safer pro-subbing from kink specialists, self-defense workshops, info on PEP and PREP, and info on the new Hep C treatment--Harvoni.

We really appreciate all you loyal donors have given us so far. It blows our minds how consistent you've been! We hope you can continue to help us keep up the incredible momentum this group has built up by continuing to compensate drug-using street workers and other drug-using survival workers for their organizing--so they can keep affording to be able to do that vital work!
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Hey there! Just a brief report on the last big biweekly meeting of our drug-using survival worker led sex worker harm reduction task force and an ask for donations to create a cushion for the next month. We've initiated a partnership with a local org that just got a large anti-trafficking grant allowing them to provide shelter and beds for trafficking victims. Most of these sorts of programs end up being coercive and infantilizing, often even becoming a source of fresh trauma for trafficking survivors, but someone from this organization contacted our group, in which many of the survival workers are also trafficking survivors, to help mold their services. At our last meeting, we had a brainstorming session on what an ideal shelter for trafficking survivors would involve and came up with plenty of suggestions--the freedom to come and go, the need for it to be a wet shelter, secret location, no interference into participant's social lives which mimics the trafficker's attempts to isolate and control them, no kicking participants out for continuing to do sex work on their own terms, staff trained in addiction, harm reduction, and trauma, access to material resources that allow one options besides returning to the trafficker like housing and jobs, etc. etc. etc. Having a program like this take input from trafficking survivors themselves from its inception is groundbreaking, and we're excited to see where this collaboration goes.

We also talked about what sort of informational components we'd like to include in our meetings in the future--we're going to follow up on a supervised consumption facility advocacy training in collaboration with hrh413 and the New England Users' Union, a presentation on local respite houses from the orgs that run them, a training on navigating a post-SESTA internet landscape, as well as presentations from Tapestry staff on PEP/PREP and Harvoni. We had many other ideas besides these, too, such as finding experts to present to us on self-defense and harm reduction in pro-subbing in the context of survival work.

Thank you so much for helping us build all this momentum over the 7 months this group has existed. Our loyal donors allow us to retain faith in...well, people! As usual, as the SESTApocalypse continues, we're hoping we can lean on our non-sex worker donors. We ask our sex worker donors to only donate if they can truly, honestly afford to do so.
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Since the Bacpageapocalypse compounded the SESTApocalypse, I haven't wanted to bother the sex worker community with fundraising for our survival-worker-led sex worker harm reduction task force for a few weeks during what I know is a terrifying and cash-strapped time for everyone. Now, I'd like to build a bit more of a cushion for us for the next premeeting and the next meeting, hopefully once again allowing for non-sex worker donors to take the lead during this direly difficult period for sex workers. But my recent silence means I've failed to fill you in on two meetings!

First off, we had amazing presentations by two different group members, one on her extreme couponing legit market side hustle, and another on utilizing a nearby community resource which is providing people in "early recovery" with giftcards to buy clothes and subsidizing them for taking classes through Jobcorps such as OSHA trainings. And we're progressing on gathering experiences from group members on the first area hospital we've decided to approach (in collaboration with the New England Users' Union) to host sensitivity trainings on interacting with opioid-using low-income sex workers. Two group members who've had extensive experience as patients are heading up this project. At each meeting we've exchanged harm reduction supplies as usual. Last meeting we had 19 group members attending! We're gathering incredible momentum, with the group becoming more and more actively and truly survival worker led and self-contained, so us more privileged sex worker group members can step back and just handle admin chores while all major decisions are made by and the meetings themselves are run by street-based and other survival workers.

We also celebrated a group member's birthday last week. But in the meantime, since we started this group, two out of a rotating body of 20-30 attendees of the group have died. We learned about the last group member’s death last week. Group members say they'll also keep an eye out for workers returning to or entering street-based work for the first time after Backpage's seizure, as these new workers will be even more vulnerable to the many dangers of street work. Many group members have been affected by the Backpage seizure and the other ad platforms which have become SESTA casualties themselves as well--many local street workers maintained a side Craigslist personals hustle before, for example. Any access to indoor work makes people's lives safer, and now group members are left with only the street as an option.

So I'm hoping you can appreciate the high stakes of this organizing survival workers are doing to protect themselves and advance their interests. They deserve to keep being compensated for that work so they can afford to do it--so thank you so fucking much as usual for helping us do that up to this point, and thank you for all your future donations as well! We have many more exciting ideas I'll fill you in on later, such as creating a speakers' bureau. I'm hoping you'll want to keep being a part of this vital work through your support.
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I'm just going to announce straight up that our SESTA-inspired experiment in asking allies to fill in for our sex worker donors funding our survival-worker-led sex worker harm reduction task force has not been a comparative success! We're very grateful for the $231 (not accounting for GoFundMe cuts) we got since yesterday, but we usually receive a lot more on weekends preceding the meetings when I directly solicit sex worker spaces. On the other hand, this has only made us appreciate our consistent repeat donors--many of them from the sworker community but some of them not--even more. Because of that consistent support, we are ok for this week's upcoming meeting, though we'd love to have more of a cushion for the future. Thank you for allowing us to do this work, and leaving it to the people best equipped to help drug-using survival sex workers--drug using survival workers themselves. And allies, you still have an opportunity to prove me and everyone else wrong in the movement-wide conclusion that we only have lackluster outside support at best for sex worker causes!
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$8,000 of $8,800 goal

Raised by 173 people in 7 months
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