In the wake of the Supreme Court preparing to overturn Roe v. Wade, you may be looking for direct ways to get involved with supporting women and folks navigating sexual and domestic violence. According to health and policy experts, marginalized people will be most affected, namely Black women, women of color, low-income folks, people with disabilities and queer and trans people.
These demographics are also disproportionately affected by housing and food insecurity, substance misuse, sexual violence, employment and education prejudice and lack of access to healthcare.
Katie Spriggs, a sexual assault survivor advocate and the executive director of the Eastern Panhandle Empowerment Center (formerly Shenandoah Women’s Center) in Martinsburg, West Virigina, says that supporting unhoused people, survivors of domestic violence and/or people with substance misuse disorder is a form of harm reduction — a term for social policies, programs and personal practices that help keep people safe.
“You’re preventing harm, you’re reducing harm,” Spriggs told HuffPost. “No matter where the harm might come from. It’s just caring about your neighbor’s safety and wanting them to survive and thrive. Science tells us this keeps people alive. And if that’s the bare minimum we can ask from community members, to want each of us to stay alive, I think that’s not too much to ask.”
Jamie Doyle, director of communications of Rosie’s Place, a community center and women’s shelter in Boston, Massachusetts, added that getting involved with harm reduction in your community can take many forms. While you may want to volunteer in person at a shelter or center, Doyle said there are a ton of ways to help from home.
“So much of our volunteering and giving is actually remote and virtual now,” Doyle told HuffPost. “Everything from a virtual food drive to [supporting] our Amazon wishlist.”
If you’re looking to support a local women’s shelter or mutual aid group by donating hygienic items or cleaning products, Spriggs suggested buying bulk or high-volume items: “I always tell everyone, everything you use on a daily basis, we use 16 times faster.”
While Doyle and Spriggs agree that most shelters and centers will be happy to take things like shampoo and toilet paper at all times, they also recommend checking in directly with the places you want to help, to make sure you’re meeting the organization’s needs. Many centers will have their own wish lists or donation asks listed on their websites or would be happy to speak with you on the phone. Doyle said that you definitely want to reach out to a center before dropping off larger items like furniture or huge bags of clothes.
“Just as we want to provide the most thoughtful and impactful help we can to our guests, we know our supporters want to provide us with the same kind of help,” Doyle says. “That’s why we so appreciate it when folks who want to make in-kind donations, first ask us what items we need most.”
To help you support women, unhoused people and domestic violence survivors in your area, Spriggs and Doyle broke down the things shelters and centers always need. And to make everyone’s life easier, they’re all on Amazon.
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