“At HIPS, we have a couple of programs that are unfunded, so we rely on volunteers to make sure those programs keep operating,” says Alexandra Bradley, the mobile services outreach manager for HIPS, the D.C.-based sex worker advocacy organization.
Among HIPS’s offerings is an overnight outreach program that seeks to engage sex workers, drug users, people experiencing housing insecurity, and a fair number of LGBTQ people — particularly transgender clients — by promoting safe sex, clean needles, and counseling. Mobile outreach volunteers can offer clients safer sex supplies, naloxone to prevent drug overdoses, and micro-counseling services to check on the status of sex workers and teach them how to better protect themselves on the streets.
“We just want to make sure that they are being heard, supported, and are safe,” says Bradley.
Volunteers can help with HIPS’s 24-hour hotline, offering assistance or advice to those in need, as well as assist with data entry for its records and fundraising and advocacy, such as talking about the importance of a bill, now before the D.C. Council, that would decriminalize sex work in the District.
Two volunteer training orientations are offered each year, and involve in-depth, day-long events that provide the equivalent of 40 hours of training on an expedited basis. The next orientation is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 11.
“Anybody with lived experiences is best suited to serve our clients, because they know what it means to be in one of those marginalized communities that we serve,” notes Bradley. “So if you are a person who is a sex worker, or has been, if you are a person who has struggled with drug use, if you are a person who is LGBTQ+, has experienced homelessness or housing insecurity, those are the folks who have the best idea of how to serve our clients.
“Those who have experience with counseling or direct service work will have an easier time,” Bradley adds “But we will welcome anybody who has an open mind and can embrace a harm-reduction approach.”
HIPS’s Winter 2020 Volunteer Orientation will be held on Saturday, Jan. 11, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 906 H St NE. Those interested in volunteering should fill out an application beforehand by visiting www.bit.ly/hipsmetro. Visit www.hips.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.