With 2019 nearly over and 2020 fast approaching, we at Aileen’s are super excited about what we have accomplished this year. Leslie and I (Emi) have been dreaming of a place like Aileen’s for many years, but it was less than a year ago when we learned about the potential County funding for new services for people engaging in/experiencing sex trade and actually began working on starting it. We invited in other women who share backgrounds in the (mostly) street-based sex trade, and together we built Aileen’s.
We opened our community organizing and hospitality space on Pac Highway in April. Using the space, we provided welcoming and accepting community for a diverse group of women, along with food, clothes, harm reduction supplies, opportunities to get involved, and more. Our contract with King County began in October, which allowed us to hire Leslie as the full-time director and lead case manager and Evan as a part-time program coordinator.
Our peer leadership project also began in October, which offers stipends for our peers (women experiencing homelessness and other adversities and are or have been in the sex trade) to lead our various programs, including harm reduction community outreach, community-based action research, social justice education and arts, and now operating the drop-in hospitality hours themselves. These opportunities are combined with intensive case management where peers receive support addressing barriers and working on the goals they set, including housing, healthcare, legal issues, family reunification, and employment, among others. Peer leadership also have the chance to develop job and life skills such as time management, effective communication, and self-care.
Through these programs, our peers interact with the rest of the community members at encampments, other social service agencies, etc. making them leaders of their own communities, not just leaders of Aileen’s. People outside of Aileen’s family are beginning to recognize our peer leaders as valuable members of their communities who are bringing in life-saving harm reduction supplies and amplifying their voices through action research.
Peer successes so far include women addressing serious health issues, receiving STD, HIV, and hep C testing, and starting medication assisted opioid treatment through our partnership with King County street medicine team that shares Aileen’s space bi-weekly. One of our peers got a legit job, another visited her children for the first time in two years, several have received support around domestic violence and/or sexual assault, and multiple lives were literally saved through the Narcan distributed Aileen’s.
Maybe more than anything else Aileen’s has afforded our peers a chance to organize and bond as peers, both inside and outside of Aileen’s. One peer summed it up this way: “The female to female bonding and camaraderie are hard to find. Because of Aileen’s we look out for each other now. That can be drastically important. A woman could literally die out here and no one would even know.” Another says “I don’t come here to get a microwave burrito or a coat. That is nice and I appreciate it but that is not why I come to Aileen’s. I come here because of the acceptance. I come here so I won’t feel judged. I come for the love.”
The reality is that all of this programming is expensive. The multiyear funding from the County is mostly paying for staff salaries and peer leadership stipends, which is what we wanted them to fund, but we also have to raise additional money for rent, utilities, food, and emergency assistance fund. Our rent is pretty low right now, but our lease is up in March and we cannot stay at the current location because the Police Department is now planning to open a substation next door to us (is it us?). In addition, our space is too small and lacks desired amenities such as shower, washer/dryer, and kitchen. We must find another location soon that is affordable and not surrounded by police cars and surveillance cameras.
We have limited time frame to figure out what to do come April 2020. We need to have several thousands of dollars cash for move-in costs and for likely increased rent, and we need it quickly. That is why we are asking our friends and supporters to give us a little more financial contribution toward Aileen’s continued success. We especially would like to have more monthly donors–no amount is too large or two small–as it would bring more predictability and stability to our finances.
To pledge to become a monthly supporter of Aileen’s, please sign up on Patreon:
To make a one-time donation to Aileen’s, please go to GoFundMe:
If you need a tax receipt for your contribution to claim tax deductions, please contact us before making the donation on above links. Please share with your friends on and off social media as well!
Thank you everyone, happy holidays and have a wonderful new year!
Aileen’s Board of Directors