Aileen’s November 2020 Update

Hello friends of Aileen’s!

It has been a difficult year, but Aileen’s continues to support women in south King County in best ways we can.

Since mid-March, we’ve had to close our communal space and switched our services to food and resources giveaway out of a parking lot. Our peer leaders, volunteers, and staff gave away boxes and boxes of food, clothes, hand sanitizers and masks, harm reduction supplies, and other stuff, expanding our services to anyone who needed them to counter immediate impact of the lockdown.

In late summer, we took a week off for what is going to be our annual peer leader retreat. We brought in a trainer to talk about our individual and community priorities and accomplishments, and map out our future. Over the last year, we have stepped up case management for our peer leaders on things like getting driver’s license back, dealing with court and CPS issues, etc. and peer leaders are beginning to take greater power and responsibilities within our organization, with three peer leaders moving on to become paid staff members for Aileen’s.

Aileen's Retreat 2020
Aileen’s Retreat 2020

We also began to slowly re-open our space, allowing 1-2 people inside at the time so that they can use our bathroom and shower. We also set up a canopy outside our space with an outdoor heater so we can meet our peers there. That has become harder under the Governor’s new order limiting outdoor gatherings to five people or less, but we are working to protect everyone’s safety while providing what they need. We prepare hot nutritious food from scratch for 50-75 people every week like split pea soup, chili, chicken and dumplings, and cole slaw. In addition to our outdoor canopy, we currently go to three locations on our outreach van to continue providing food and supplies to everyone in need, especially with the return of the cold, rainy season.

Prepping for Outreach
Prepping for Outreach

Particularly high on our updated wishlist are: blanket, coats, socks, hand warmers, boots, propane bottles, tents, hand sanitizers. We also need clothes, food, and other personal supplies. And in case you are wondering, we also take cash 🙂

If you have something you can drop off, please contact us.

Donations can be made online at:

http://patreon.com/aileens
http://gofundme.com/aileens

Volunteering for Aileen’s looks different because of the COVID restrictions, but we continue to need volunteers who: 1. cook food before our outreach (outreach is every Tuesday evening, so cooking need to be done on Monday or Tuesday morning); 2. drive our van when we go out on outreach (also Tuesday evening), or help with data entry. Please contact us if you are interested. (And also, if you are an existing volunteer, thank you and we still need you.)

Also: we were recently invited by another social service provider to give a couple of online trainings (one about harm reduction and another about supporting sex workers and people in the sex trade) and it was a great experience. Our new peer leader turned staff Teranie and Devyn joined co-founders Leslie and Emi on these presentations. We want to do more! If your organization needs a staff training on these topics–or have some other idea–please contact us!

Thank you for your support + let’s hang in there!

Aileen’s June 2020 Update + Standing In Solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter

It’s June and we are in the midst not just of an ongoing epidemic that continues to threaten the lives of many of our community members but also of a national moment of reflection and action over white supremacy and police violence on Black, indigenous and people of color upon which this country is founded. We are heartbroken by ongoing assaults and murders of Black people at the hands of the agents of the State as well as by the society that is too quick to rely on them, yet encouraged by the outpouring of empathy and outrage in response to the tragedies.

We at Aileen’s stand in solidarity with the family and friends of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmed Aubrey, Charleena Lyles, and countless other Black men and women who have been brutalized and murdered by our white supremacist institutions, and with the movement for Black lives in calling not just for the arrest and prosecution of individual officers involved, but for systemic changes. If you have not already, please follow and support Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County (facebook, twitter).

For our neighbors in Federal Way (where Aileen’s is located) and nearby areas, follow Federal Way Black Collective, who is holding a Juneteenth screening of the award-winning documentary film “13th,” which traces the genealogy of over-policing of Black communities, mass incarceration, and prison industrial complex to American chattel slavery. They are also looking for volunteers who can help out with their food distribution that they are starting next week Friday.

June is also the LGBTQ Pride month. It is hard to feel like celebrating anything right now, but we are proud of the legacy of queer and trans women of color and others who have risen up against racialized police violence in June 1969 as the police raided Stonewall Inn and ever since, and we commit to carrying on their quest for equality and justice within our organization, our region, and in the larger society.

Here’s the update from Aileen’s for June: we will continue to provide food, clothes, supplies, and other stuff twice a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays) at our location in Federal Way (contact if you need more detail) as we did for the last couple of months. HOWEVER, in the last two months we were donate pre-packaged meals to distribute (150 meals each day we were out there), but that supply of food has ended at the end of May. That means we have to buy food and prepare them so that we can continue to feed people in need at our van location, which will be a lot more expensive and time-consuming that it had been before, but we can’t stop feeding people in the time of crisis.

So as always we appreciate your continued support of Aileen’s—use GoFundMe (one-time) or Patreon (monthly contributions) to donate online, or contact us if you need donation receipts for tax purposes (we need to process tax deductible donations differently). We also need donations of food and supplies—please see our updated wishlist for what we need at our giveaway van location.

Thank you + stay safe + stay connected!

May 2020 Update from Aileen’s

Dear Aileen’s fam,

It’s May and we wanted to update you about how Aileen’s is continuing to support our women and our communities.

Since the lockdown began mid-March, we noticed that many services for communities experiencing homelessness and poverty have shut down. For example, there used to be a van parked near our space every week operated by a faith-based group that provided food and resources to our folks but no longer. In response, we decided to take over their location and now our staff and peer leaders are there twice a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays) providing food, clothes, supplies, and more. Please see our social media accounts (Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook) for some photos!

We also temporarily extended our services to anyone who needs them (as opposed to just women who engage in sex trade) as the community needs were far greater than ever before. COVID-19 isn’t the only emergency faced by this population, as access to food, clean water, public restrooms, showers, laundry, place to rest, etc. have become sparse. We can’t replace everything that is missing, but we are doing what we can.

We have received a couple of grants as well as generous donations from our friends and family, but we often run out of things to give out during first hour or less, so your continued support is desperately needed at this time. Most desired items are: food, good clothes, tents, sleeping bags, blankets, tarps, hygiene items, gift cards to grocery stores. Please see our complete and updated wishlist.

We of course appreciate $$$ donations. For monthly donations, go to Patreon; One-time donations can be made via GoFundMe. If you need a donation receipt for tax purposes, we need to process it differently so please contact us.

Please take care of yourself and our community and let’s live through this together.

Aileen’s July 2020 Schedule — Expanded services in response to COVID-19 crisis (Updated)

Starting July, we are beginning to re-open our space for our women so that they can enter up to two persons at the time to use the shower and receive other services while continuing to provide food and other resources to anyone who needs them.

Tuesdays @ 8-10pm
meet us at the location Hope Van used to go @ Pac & 312th (parking lot near World Ministries, 1627 S 312th St). everyone welcome (men & women).
food, hot drinks, harm reduction and other essential supplies.

Thursdays @ 8-10pm
harm reduction supplies available at the Hope Van location on Pac & 312th.
showers for women only (first come first served) available at Aileen’s. contact for the location.

Aileen’s is a peer-led grass-roots group providing hospitality, community outreach, and leadership development for women working along the Pac Hwy.

If you are a woman who work along the Pac Hwy and have other urgent needs, please call Leslie at 253-241-1205 or talk to one of the peer leaders at the above location.

Aileen’s 1 Yr Anniversary Update & How we are responding to COVID-19 pandemic

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, use restroom, take shower, wash hands, 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.

Aileen’s 2019 Accomplishments, Hopes and Challenges for 2020 (pls share widely!)

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:
http://patreon.com/aileens/

To make a one-time donation to Aileen’s, please go to GoFundMe:
http://gofundme.com/aileens/

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!

Emi Koyama
Aileen’s Board of Directors

Aileen’s awarded a 4-year grant by the County–but still needs your help more than ever

As some of you have already heard, Aileen’s was recently awarded a four year (plus three months) grant from King County to expand our services. The grant allows us to hire Aileen’s co-founder Leslie so she can quit her day job and focus on running Aileen’s and additional part-time staff to assist her, and also provide stipends for women we serve to participate in our peer leadership program, which has been our dream from the beginning.

Peer leadership program begins with an orientation and a series of trainings on CPR/first aid, overdose prevention and response, safe sharps handling, harm reduction, and anti-oppression. After that, peer leaders are able to sign up for shifts to do harm reduction outreach at homeless encampments and other places that are not reached by existing programs, collect stories from community, lead art and social justice groups, etc. Aileen’s will provide intensive case management to address any barriers our peer leaders face, such as housing, treatment, clearing legal obstacles, developing time management and other job skills, etc.

Sounds amazing right? Well, the problem is that the County money doesn’t pay for many of our mundane and recurring costs, such as rent, utilities, toiletries and food for our hospitality space, and others. We obviously cannot exist without these things. In addition, our staff were hired as of October 1st but County grant hasn’t been deposited yet.

So what that brings us to is the fact that our bank account has $87.47 as of now, with some of the recurring payments coming soon. That is why, despite the County grant, we still need your financial support. Please donate to Aileen’s so we can continue to support our peers–women living and working along the increasingly cold Pacific Highway in south King County.

What’s happening at Aileen’s? A lot!

We apologize for lack of updates on our website, but we are getting a momentum here at Aileen’s HQ (i.e. our small community space). Here are some highlights:

  • Someone generously donated an outreach van! This helps us expand our reach in the community and will be super useful when we launch formal peer outreach program later.
  • Our space has been open for regular hours for a few months. We’ve provided hospitality, resources, community, and other necessities to our women. Please see our hours for our current hours.
  • Peer leadership & arts program is happening! This is a group for our peers to express ourselves through words and arts. We are working toward putting on an art show and publishing zines.
  • We’ve been holding monthly peer steering committee where our community makes decisions about the direction of Aileen’s and other stuff.
  • We’ve helped several women advocate for themselves in dealing with the criminal justice system that unfairly targeted them.
  • We held a baby shower for one of our women at Aileen’s. She gave birth the next day!
  • We’ve applied for a King County grant that would enable us to expand our case management services and provide stipends for peer outreach and leadership development. No guarantees that we’d get it, but keep fingers crossed!
  • Our sister project, System Failure Alert! has launched. This is a way for our community to report our experiences of system failures–failures of and abuses by the systems such as the police, medical providers, social service, and others that are supposed to help us but often end up causing harm–so we can establish patterns of abuse, build power, and hold institutions accountable. See System Failure Alert! website for more information.

That said, we can’t do this without the support of our community. Please continue supporting Aileen’s and our women by making a one-time donation or pledging to become a monthly donor!