When the COVID crisis started to unfold here mid-March, like everyone else we went through a range of feelings – shock, fear, denial, overwhelm. From how quickly COVID had moved in other countries we feared for the street community, already so vulnerable because of injustice and already reeling from mass deaths from the overdose crisis.
The day after service closures started and we realized that people were going to be left with even less than before, two of us reached out to an ad hoc group of folks we had organized with previously to try to wrap our heads around what was happening and collectively figure out what we could constructively do.
A month in, we still have more questions than answers, and we still have a lot of feelings (including rage about how badly government and service providers have handled this crisis). But we are happy to launch this website, both to have a way for people who want to take action to connect in and do that; and also to have a way to share what we are witnessing and learning. For people who are housed and disconnected with what’s happening on the ground, there is a lot of misunderstanding about how things are unfolding. Government keeps telling people they are on top of it, but we are seeing that they are not only NOT on top of COVID prevention, they are making people’s health worse in the meantime by cutting off access to basic needs like food and water, and increasing their attempts to police and contain those who are living outside.
The message of self-isolation as the solution to COVID is deadly for people who are already dying from isolation, marginalization, and discrimination. Top-down approaches that are ungrounded in what people actually want and need are always doomed to fail, but somehow the street community always gets blamed for “not complying”, or portrayed as too weak to look after themselves and in need of “saving”.
We want to focus most of our time and energy on doing the things that need to be done, but hope to blog here every couple days to provide updates on what we’re seeing, and share what we are learning. This is definitely an anti-perfection project: being human is weird and messy enough, but nobody gave us a checklist on how to organize in a pandemic. We know that we are going to make a lot of mistakes along the way and hope that you’ll be here with us as we grieve, fight, learn, and keep going. ❤