The Heart of HIPS
Kathy “Ms. Kathy” Vann is a Level II Certified Addictions Counselor that leads groups at HIPS for those who choose not to use drugs. She describes her approach as unconventional, believing that you must “first come from the heart and appeal to a person’s spirit.” She shared a little about her ‘angel’ CoCo and how their connection began and grew.
I believe ‘gifts’ are given to us by the Universe in the most amazing sizes, shapes and forms. CoCo is one of them. I’d been working as a Level II Certified Addictions Counselor at HIPS for a few weeks, facilitating Recovery based therapeutic group sessions. It had been a huge challenge to entice clients to enter into the sessions. The HIPS ‘Drop In Center’ is a popular visiting place for people experiencing homeless and drug users.
One day, CoCo entered into the room. She was disheveled and appeared to be homeless. I don’t recall what the topic of the day’s discussion was, but she quietly remained throughout the session listening. Lunch was offered. CoCo ate with our small group. From that point on she participated on a daily basis. She appeared very interested in the group topics. CoCo spoke quietly. Her speech was muttered and it was at times challenging to understand her words. However, when she spoke she always presented a profound message. We would wait with ‘baited breath’ to receive the knowledge that would come from a person whom the group least expected to receive it from!
CoCo became an important and integral part of our small community within the HIPS community. I believe it was her blatant honesty when sharing that we appreciated the most. For example, when describing herself, the public views her as a transgender woman. CoCo expressed that she is a male. She stated that she has a penis and is not confused about her biological makeup. She explained that her dressing as a female is due to an emotional and psychological desire to be ‘close’ to her deceased mother.
CoCo is Haitian. She surprised the group one day when she began to speak fluent French! She shared a traumatic story about her mother’s death when Coco was a very young child. She adored her mother and used to play ‘dress up’ with her mother’s clothing. When her mother died, Coco and her siblings came to New York City to live with relatives. She still has difficulty speaking about this terrible time in her journey of life.
When I met Coco she used drugs on a daily basis and identified her occupation as a sex worker. No matter how her previous day went CoCo always showed up to group the following day. We had become a ‘family’, all from different experiences, trials, and walks of life. The group grew to greatly respect one another’s life choices. There remained a certain type of freedom from negative opinions and judgements, as well as safety from harm’s way inside our small room.
When the Covid19 pandemic hit, the group was postponed for over a year. However, when the Covid19 restrictions allowed, we reunited. We spent summer Thursdays in parks near the Anacostia River. HIPS staff members frequently joined us. CoCo then moved to a special type of shelter in Baltimore. She still made her way to D.C. to attend our group sessions. A few months ago, Coco entered a drug treatment facility outside of the District. She returned drug free with a renewed attitude of clarity!
Since then, CoCo has somewhat transformed! Although remaining blatantly honest with a kindness of spirit, she has abandoned her matted wigs, displaying her beautiful naturally curly hair. Her clothing is no longer disheveled. CoCo shares her philosophy of ‘Living in the Now’, something we both agree upon!
She remains faithful to our group, appearing consistently and sharing with an honest and excitedly open heart. She is my ‘Angel’.
Thank You, Universe!
Artist Gives a Portion of Sales to HIPS
One of our greatest gifts is when local folks care enough about our mission to help raise the donations that make our work possible. Deb Almond is one of those people, and we were excited to reach out and learn a little more about them!
- How did you hear about and get involved with HIPS?
I'm from London, UK and came to the US in January of 2014 on a fiancee visa to marry my American husband. For the first 6 months or so of living here I didn't have a work permit, social security number, or bank account and there wasn't a lot I could do. So, I began searching for a place to volunteer where I could use my training and education and meet new people. After googling sexual and reproductive health organizations in DC, I knew that HIPS was the first place I had to contact. I ended up volunteering a few mornings a week for about 3 months in 2014 where I spent most of that time writing a protocol for Hep C testing. I loved the people I met there and was grateful for the opportunity to learn more about my new city.
- Is there anything you want to share about your background or education?
I got my MSc in London in the control of infectious diseases in 2012-13 and had already spent some time working in sexual and reproductive health in the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and my home city of London. I continued that work with the Terrence Higgins Trust - the UK's largest sexual health organization - and then with a big international organization when I finally found fulltime employment here in DC. My focus has always been on sexual health and young people, especially those with limited access to good services and information. That took me all around the world, but I was growing increasingly aware of the need for essential services locally and I knew from my time at HIPS that there were so many talented people working towards Reproductive Justice and harm reduction here in DC.
- Tell us more about donating 10% of your sales
Eventually I turned my side hustle, Candid Almond, into a full time business and began selling my artwork on a larger scale. I felt that given the budget cuts to some of the essential services HIPS offers and knowing first hand the importance of the work they do in the community, the best impact I could have was through raising money and awareness. Since October 2020, I've given 10% of profits from every purchase directly to HIPS and have shared their information with hundreds of customers. My business is growing slowly but surely and so will my continuing donations to HIPS! I sell art prints, greeting cards, pins, tote bags, mugs, and throw pillows from my website www.candidalmond.com and in a new popup shop called ShopHER located on the second floor of Union Station.
-Anything else interesting you’d like to share?
Although I'm not a DC native, I've been here for 8 years and consider this my US home town. I live in Trinidad, NE with my husband, daughter, and son who is due any day now! I gave up my job in January 2020 because it wasn't allowing me to be the partner, mum, or friend that I wanted to be. Since then I've been working on Candid Almond full time and I've never been so broke or happy!
Amy Ciciora published Decrim Poverty Campaign Launches in Decrim Poverty Campaign 2021-10-26 14:26:26 -0400
#DecrimPovertyDC is a grassroots advocacy coalition committed to decriminalizing poverty by working to end stigma, violence, criminalization, and other forms of oppression against people who are targeted by the state for ‘crimes of poverty,’ including drug use, sex work, housing insecurity, citizenship status, and incarceration history.Read more
Why MAT Matters
The HIPS MAT for OUD (Medically Assisted Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder) program is known for taking the patients others won’t — whether they suffer from complex trauma, chronic homelessness, or years of mistrust of the medical establishment. HIPS MAT meets patients where they are and we get results that others don’t.Read more
Amy Ciciora donated 2021-12-31 10:02:56 -0500
HIPS believes everyone deserves a life free from violence, that everyone deserves a safe place to sleep, and that everyone needs a community they can rely on.
The ongoing pandemic has made providing those basic human rights increasingly challenging.
HIPS needs your support more than ever so that we can continue to provide love, support, and care in 2022.
Across the country, overdoes death have increased significantly.
Harm reduction works and HIPS knows where and how to deliver what folks need most.
HIPS listens and meets people where they are - literally.
Your donation today will be put into action immediately, providing meals, non-judgmental harm reduction services, community engagement, and advocacy for folks in street economies at a time it's needed most.Your donation saves livesWould you like to support HIPS throughout the year and have access to special HIPS events and info?Join our Pink Membership Team here with a monthly donation!HIPS operates on an *opt-in*policy for publicly honoring donations.HIPS does not publish public donor thank you or acknowledgements in newsletters or reports without your explicit permission.
HIPS a 501(c)(3) organization, Federal Tax ID # 52-1847137. If you have made an error in making your donation, we will honor your request for a refund made within 10 business days of your donation. To request a refund, call 202-232-8150. Refunds are returned using the original method of payment, except cash donations will be returned via check. If you made your donation by credit card, your refund will be credited to that same credit card.Donate
Since 1993, HIPS has worked to address the social, economic, and health disparities faced by people in DC's street economies. HIPS has grown from an outreach and referral service operating out of a passenger van, to a holistic and comprehensive harm reduction based program offering clinical, social service, harm reduction and advocacy.27 signatures
HIPS advances the health, rights, and dignity of people and communities impacted by sex work or drug use by providing non-judgmental harm reduction services, advocacy, and community engagement, led by those with lived experience.
We envision a world where all people engaged in sex work and drug use are empowered and can live healthy, self-determined, and self-sufficient lives free from stigma, violence, criminalization or oppression.
The Community Health and Safety Amendment Act of 2019 is the culmination of years of work advocating for the rights and protections of Sex Workers. First introduced in 2017, this legislation was carefully revised after thousands of hours of community engagement, petitions, and countless hours of meetings with community members and city council. After the Sex Worker Advocates Coalition (SWAC)* gained five council members’ support as sponsors and cosponsors, this thoughtfully crafted bill was reintroduced in June of 2019. In October of that year a monumental hearing was held that lasted well over 14 hours. Despite hundreds of DC residents testifying in favor of this groundbreaking legislation, outside detractors (both national and international) won out over local support. As a result of detractors' scare tactics it never made it out of the judiciary committee for a full vote.
Then, just as the SWAC was regrouping and ramping up efforts, Covid19 hit and the movement really stalled.
That brings us to the here and now. We need support for the movement as the coalition redoubles efforts to fight to Decriminalize Sex Work for the many who’s survival is dependent on this work.
We seek to:
- Halt harmful police interactions
- Promote freedom and increase sexual health
- Increase access to resources, housing, and healthcare
- Remove barriers to other employment opportunities
These barriers to safety, stability and health are particularly hardest on Black transgender women, femmes and gender non binary/non conforming folks. Most of whom have the least amount of access to safe housing and are most likely to be under employed/unemployable (due to lengthy criminal records for survival sex work).
Please sign on and join this fight. Your support of these human rights means critical change for so many. The time is NOW.
*The Sex Worker Advocates Coalition (“SWAC”) was formed in October 2016 as a small working working group discussing the current status of sex worker rights in the District. By January 2017, the coalition had established defined principles and guidelines. SWAC is a group of individuals and organizations promoting the human rights, civil rights and liberties, health, safety, and well-being of sex workers and people profiled as sex workers in Washington D.C. and advocating for legislation and other policy changes to challenge the system of criminalization of sex work. SWAC’s mission is to support and advocate for the full decriminalization of consensual sexual exchange in the District.
Amy Ciciora donated 2021-08-13 09:59:28 -0400
HIPS is offering both free of charge and sliding scale admission to our Suboxone, Ethics and Stigma Webinar!
We love this explanation of "Sliding scale, a tool for economic justice" from Worts & Cunning.
Check out these bits from that conversation and we encourage you to read the blog!
- The sliding scale is a tool that allows for a product or service to be obtained at multiple price points based on the circumstances of the purchaser.
- The sliding scale represents the idea that financial resources, including income, are not and should not be the only determining factor in whether or not someone can access services/care/etc
- Teachers deserve to get paid and students deserve classes which recognize the multiple realities of economic access and privilege that exist.
We encourage you to examine your own situation and make an appropriate donation.
Donation suggested sliding scale:
$100 - This level of support covers one person's participation in the webinar AND supports the participation lowest and free participants.
$75 - True Cost This is the true cost of offering our webinar, "If you are able to pay for "wants" and spend little time worried about securing necessities in your life, you have economic privilege and power in our community. This price is for you."
$25-50 Middle Cost
This level reflects the practitioner's acknowledgement that paying the full cost would prevent some folks from being able to attend, but who do not honestly find themselves reflected in either descriptions for the highest cost or the lowest."
$5 - Lowest Cost
Our lowest cost "represents an honest acknowledgment by the teacher and practitioner that there are folks whose economic circumstances would prevent them from being a part of classes if there was not be a deliberate opportunity made for them to access services at a cost that is reflective of their economic realities." HIPS would add that often these folks' participation is critical and important to a full and equitable conversation.
0$ - HIPS offers this level for folks for whom registering via a credit card presents a significant barrier to participation. If you would like to participate at this level, your RSVP will suffice and you can close this window!