Words cannot express how grateful I am for the support I have seen around the 20th anniversary of HIPS! In December of 1993, a small but dedicated group banded together to reach out to people working, living and dying on their streets, hoping to make a difference. In the twenty years since, HIPS has touched the lives of thousands of people involved in sex work, sex trade and/or drug use in the District of Columbia, offering them hope, education, and most of all a safe and respectful space for personal growth. Many of you have been a part of our success – as clients participating in services, as volunteers, as board members, as collaborating partners, and as donors. We absolutely cannot do any of it without you.
That’s why I'm counting on you to please give generously to HIPS this holiday season. Any and every donation helps; we at HIPS take pride in our reputation for making every dollar count. It doesn't take much, but it does take money for us to continue sowing and harvesting positive change for our clients and our community.
I consider myself very fortunate to see regularly the impact that our services have. I get to see the changes people at the end of their rope can make when offered a life-affirming, non-judgmental space like ours. I get to see Janice, who despite living in a local shelter spends every day at HIPS helping welcome clients to the drop in and keep the space looking nice. I get to see James, who helps manage his drug use by attending our daily maintenance group and since attending has found a job he likes. I see it in every woman who feels supported and valued when they walk up to the HIPS van for condoms and a quick chat to break up the long nights.
Recently we’ve recently started a new blog called “Why I HIPS” to help share those stories and a few photos. I invite you to take a few minutes to visit our website today and read some of the countless beautiful stories of how HIPS has changed lives.
I can think of no better way to show you how much your donations count, and what a huge and crucial difference you are helping us make in the lives of our clients and in the life of the city we all share.
The work we do isn't the kind of work that ever ends, nor will it as long as people in our community need our services. With your help and support, we will always be there for those who find themselves working the streets because of dire situations, perhaps because they face employment discrimination because of a criminal record or gender identity bias, perhaps because they're victims of other forms of abuse.
So many of our sisters, brothers, and loved ones struggle with the harms that can be associated with drug use and sex work. While we were thrilled to hear that new HIV infections among DC drug users fell 80% in the last five years, due partly to the hard-fought expansion of syringe access, there is still more work to be done. As long as HIPS continues to receive calls from sex workers who have been victims of violence who have nowhere to turn, there is still urgent work to be done. When research still shows that the LGBTQ community is disproportionately affected by violent crimes in our city, there is still lifesaving work to be done.
The HIPS team is committed to doing that work, we are experienced in doing that work, and we are asking you to help us continue getting it done in 2014 and beyond. With your donation, together we can achieve healthy streets and a healthier community. Your donations mean we can offer hope, options and non-judgmental support to our city’s most marginalized and endangered communities.
Twenty years ago, our community boldly pulled together to pool our talents and resources in an unprecedented way to meet a critical need: to provide essential support and services that no one else was willing to provide. We are asking you to pull together now and help us continue that work today and every day (and night!).
These are hard times in the nonprofit world. Many of the organizations that have helped us provide vital services to those in need have shut down. The National HIV/AIDS Strategy, Health Care Reform, and the rise of the anti-human trafficking movement present great opportunities as well as great challenges for HIPS in the years to come. With your help, I dare say we will meet these challenges and opportunities head on, fully prepared and enabled.
In closing, I'd like to share with you our new HIPS vision and mission statement that will serve as our rallying call for the years to come. This new direction is the result of over a year's work by all of our family of HIPS stakeholders to understand our strengths, assess our weaknesses, overcome our challenges, and focus our resources on creating real change in the lives of those we serve. In 2014 and beyond, HIPS will:
“Promote the health, rights, and dignity of individuals and communities impacted by sexual exchange and/or drug use due to choice, coercion, or circumstance. HIPS provides compassionate harm reduction services, advocacy, and community engagement that is respectful, non-judgmental, and affirms and honors individual power and agency.
We believe that those engaged in sex work, sex trade, and drug use should be able to live healthy, self-determined, and self-sufficient lives free from stigma, violence, criminalization and oppression. We will achieve this by engaging sex workers, drug users and our communities in challenging structural barriers to their health, safety, and prosperity.”
I hope you'll consider a special donation in light of our 20th year and join the many who are helping to spread the word about the impact HIPS has had on their lives.
Thank you for caring, thank you for daring, thank you for sharing – and, to steal a line from our Mobile Services Team & volunteers – HIPS, HIPS Hooray! I look forward to many more years of creating positive change and changing lives for the better with you.