Hello friends and family of Aileen’s,
As we are collectively facing and dealing with social and economic impacts of the ongoing pandemic, we wanted to update you, our friends and family, about where Aileen’s is on its first anniversary.
We didn’t imagine the world under quarantine when Aileen’s was founded about a year ago, but we couldn’t have imagined how far our peer-led hospitality and community organizing project by and for women working along the Pac Highway would grow either. In the last year, we have formally launched peer leadership program, which provides intensive case management and stipends to our peer leaders that enable them to run various aspects of Aileen’s, from hosting our drop-in hospitality space to doing harm reduction outreach and community-based action research. Our peers have come a long way—many of them are progressing toward their goals, including getting needed medical treatment, getting into housing, staying away from violent environment, rebuilding or maintaining relationships with their children, etc.
Circumstances surrounding our peers, many of whom lack stable housing, have been dire for a very long time. But things have gotten much worse under the current pandemic. Libraries, day centers, and other public spaces–where our peers receive services, take shower, cook or have a meal, be warm, interact with family and friends, charge their devices, and access health and public assistance information–are shut down. Without access to public wifi, many of our peers cannot connect to the internet or communicate with anyone. They do not have anywhere to lay down or self-isolate themselves to protect themselves and others. Their income from day labor, panhandling, street vending, and underground economy is way down in a ghost town, which leads them to take greater health and safety risks in order to survive and take care of their needs. They are having to travel further to get food and other resources they need, which is putting themselves at the risk of contracting or spreading infections. Many of the women we serve are women of color and/or trans or gender-diverse individuals who face extra stigma and violence on top of being homeless or having dependencies on substances, even at healthcare facilities, making them less likely to seek medical attention, and even when they do, they may not be treated respectfully.
Sadly we are not currently operating our drop-in hospitality space due to the pandemic, but we are still meeting our peers at our new space to hand out food, pre-packed meals, clothes, blankets, harm reduction supplies, health information, and other resources while minimizing risks associated with crowding. We have purchased cheap phones and prepaid phone cards to our peer leaders so that they can stay in touch with us as well as with their family and friends, and also access health information for themselves and their communities. We are increasing staff hours (including hiring a new part-time employee with public health background) in order to take additional health precautions, and obtain and provide resources that are in greater need due to other services closing.
In short, this is a difficult time for all of us, and particularly for women of Aileen’s, but we are still working for our women. And we will get through this together.
Will you join in our effort? We are not looking for regular volunteers because our hospitality space is closed, but we need donations more than ever! Do you have non-perishable (good, healthful) food? Good clothes? Tents, sleeping bags, tarps, propane, backpacks, etc.? Maybe I’m fantasizing, but maybe even masks, hand sanitizers, alcohol and bleach wipes, etc.? We need them all!
As always, we appreciate cash donations as well—donate online via GoFundMe (one-time) or Patreon (monthly pledge) so we can provide what our women need. Ideally we’d like to have enough funds to house our peers in a motel for a couple of weeks and deliver food and necessities to them when they are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 but we don’t have that kind of resources at this point. Please help us prepare for that, and pay for the additional expenses mentioned above! We realize that many of you are also experiencing financial hardship or uncertainty due to business closures and impending recession, and we really appreciate your support.
Please stay connected (virtually), take care of yourself, your family, and your community, and let’s live through this together.