SJF is excited to announce the awardees of the Innovative, Just, & Equitable Housing Momentum Giving Project! These 1-year grants of around $18,000 will support grassroots organizations working to resist housing injustice and create new, innovative, and equitable approaches to housing for their communities. The project’s small-but-mighty cohort came together in March of 2021. Made up of Giving Project alumni, each member added their personal stakes and perspectives on housing justice to the collective’s purpose. Over the next three months they sharpened their analysis, polished their fundraising skills, met with prospective grantees, and democratically selected the final awardees. They raised their original goal of $165,000, then kept on going to meet and exceed their stretch goal of $205,000!
This Giving Project was created to address the massive gap in affordable, comfortable, and equitable housing that’s been intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic. At its core is the belief that people should have power and agency in where and how they live. Some of the awardees, like Firelands Workers Action/Acción de Trabajadores, Chaplains on the Harbor, and ShelterJH, undertake critical organizing to address rural housing struggles often left out of the movement for housing justice. Others, like UTOPIA WA, Trans Women of Color Solidarity Network, and Queer the Land, are queer and trans-led organizations responding to the urgent need for safe, accessible, and community-based housing for trans people. Many of these organizations have stepped up to the urgent needs created by the COVID-19 pandemic; all of them bring expertise, vision, and accountability to the important work of housing their communities. We are honored to support them. Congratulations to the awardees!
We asked two Giving Project members about their experience. Here’s what they had to say:
Alice Wu, cohort member
I joined my first Giving Project in 2019, with North Star Fund in New York City. At the time, I felt disconnected from my local community. In 2016, I changed careers from nonprofits to the private sector, and it was difficult to find people with shared values. In previous jobs, people at least pretended to care! It was a huge change for me and left me feeling really lost. A good friend of mine had done a Giving Project and had asked me to join. I kept saying it wasn’t a good time, but by 2019, I realized there was never going to be a good time! I enjoyed the project and I felt proud of what our group accomplished. I moved to Washington in early 2021 and signed up for SJF’s email list. Soon enough, I got an email about the Momentum Giving Project for Giving Project alumni. Moving to Seattle and already having a place to live in itself is a privilege. And especially moving to a city that has such a visible houseless population, I definitely felt a sense of responsibility to commit resources for such a dire need. I thought it was completely meant to be.
Throughout fundraising, I hoped to be able to express how houseless folks get punished again and again by a myriad of existing policies, racism, corporate interests and structural inequality. Houselessness is seemingly the most observable, tangible, material result of an unequal system. And yet, we are still here. I definitely felt sheepish asking for donations, even during a second Giving Project. It’s still uncomfortable every time! I learned to let go of a lot of expectations. Through the project, I was able to establish new connections and re-connect with folks over fundraising and everyday life. I updated people about my move and shared some personal news, too. I’m grateful that this project brought me a bit closer to people.
I was really inspired by TWOCSN. Their words came from such a grounded understanding and love for their community. It was hard not to feel their warmth and dedication throughout. They showed us the spectrum of local, regional, and national challenges their community faces and also the unique depth of organizing they were committed to. Safe housing is imperative to their survival. To anyone who’s thinking about joining a Giving Project: I learned the first time that my hesitation was “finding the right time” to commit to the project. I feel like there isn’t such a thing as a perfect time to participate and commit to being connected to community organizing. If you’re on the fence, just apply! Don’t be scared of the fundraising part, focus on the connections you’ll be creating with the people in your group, your own network and the community at large.
Petra Perkins, cohort member
I initially joined the Giving Project because, at one point in my life, I was teetering on the edge of homelessness. This Giving Project felt personal. I also wanted to try to get better at fundraising — specifically, get more comfortable with asking and doing it in a way that felt authentic. As the project progressed, I was really drawn in by how much I loved the group of volunteers I was working with. We were a fun group — small but mighty. When it came time to fundraise, I was really hesitant to ask for money from family — which actually turned out to be surprisingly easy. I struggled more with fundraising in my religious community, which ended up much better than I thought it would.
My transformational moment came when I attended a Social Justice Fund Giving Plan workshop. I actually missed most of the workshop, but came in at just the right moment to hear what I needed to shift my thinking about how to tell my story about how I give and — more importantly — WHY I give. I understood intellectually that being able to articulate my “why” would help me to improve my asking, but up to that point I had not internalized that understanding. Something in that workshop clicked for me. I stopped worrying about the mechanics of getting to the ask, and instead zeroed in on my “why”…and the asking flowed naturally from it. A big part of explaining my why was about how I defined a meaningful gift in the context of this project and where I am in life right now.
As for the grantees, I’m really interested to see the work of the groups in rural and small town communities. To anyone who’s thinking about joining a Giving Project, I say stop thinking about it and just do it. Make sure you spend some time trying to understand your “why” and how to communicate that to people.
We honor the awardees of the 2021 Innovative, Just, & Equitable Housing Momentum Giving Project!
Chaplains on the Harbor | Grays Harbor, WA
Chaplains on the Harbor is a group of interfaith chaplains building the “freedom church of the poor” by pastoring, organizing, and empowering the leadership of poor people in Grays Harbor County. To fulfill this mission, Chaplains on the Harbor: organizes in defense of poor, homeless, and incarcerated people’s human rights; provides leadership development; creates wrap-around support for healing from trauma and addiction; and leads projects for regenerative community ownership. They aim to open a new 40-bed shelter in downtown Aberdeen that will also serve as a central organizing base for the political power of homeless and unstably housed people.
Firelands Workers Action/Acción de Trabajadores builds multiracial working-class power in rural battleground counties in Washington to organize for a just, green economy that serves people and the land. Through bilingual base-building, political education, organizing training, policy advocacy, voter engagement, narrative strategy, and cultural resilience, Firelands grows the capacity of rural workers and tenants to unite across race to build our participatory and political power. They campaign for transformational policy and desperately-needed reinvestment in housing, healthcare, childcare, and green jobs.
Indian People’s Action | Billings & Missoula, MT
The mission of Indian People’s Action (IPA) is to empower Montana’s Indian families to address the economic, racial and environmental inequities that shape their lives. IPA works to achieve its mission by training and developing low-income Native American leaders, working to build strong coalitions and partnering with tribes, other Native organizations, and other progressive organizations in Montana. IPA is currently working to advocate for equitable housing and services for low-income families and people returning from incarceration as part of a vision of reimagining public safety, defunding the police, and reinvesting in communities.
People of Color Sex Worker Outreach Project | Seattle, WA
People of Color Sex Worker Outreach Project (POC SWOP) works to empower, educate, and resource BIPOC sex workers to advocate for legislative change and create self sustaining models of care within their communities. POC SWOP centers the experiences of Black queer, trans, and nonbinary sex workers. POC SWOP has successfully advocated for over $100,000 in funding for outreach efforts through the Green Light Project, partnered with other collectives to develop reproductive justice policy, supported the Green Light Project to provide rapid housing to community members impacted by COVID-19, and advocated to extend the eviction moratorium to hotels.
Queer the Land | Seattle, WA
Queer the Land (QTL) is a collaborative project grounded in the self-determination of queer, trans, and two-spirit Black, Indigenous, and people of color (QT2BIPOC) and the goal of collectively owning their land and labor. They work to directly address the root causes and power structures that displace their communities and destabilize the organizing work that is vital to their survival. With a vision of collectively owned housing and community space by and for QT2BIPOC, QTL recently secured a 12 bedroom house in Seattle’s Beacon Hill neighborhood. They plan to provide low cost and/or barter-for-rent opportunities for transitional and long term housing for their community.
ShelterJH | Jackson Hole, Wyoming
ShelterJH builds grassroots and political power so that all community members can live where they work, creating a more resilient and just future for Jackson Hole. ShelterJH hosts educational election season events and endorses housing champion candidates; partners with numerous organizations to further local and state political objectives; and empowers supporters to lobby representatives regarding local development projects. They also monitor local projects and champion innovative policies, all while distilling this information for their membership base.
Trans Women of Color Solidarity Network | Seattle, WA
The Trans Women of Color Solidarity Network (TWOCSN) enables collective care, builds community power, and redistributes wealth so Black, Indigenous, Trans Women of Color (BITWOC) in Washington can survive and thrive. TWOCSN’s vision is to acquire long-term housing, create a community center, and develop BITWOC-run worker cooperatives. They are currently converting four buses into temporary shelter to meet an urgent need for emergency shelter by and for BITWOC; as part of this project, they are seeking to acquire land to provide a permanent home for a bus village.
The mission of United Territories of Pacific Islanders Alliance (UTOPIA) WA is to provide sacred spaces to strengthen the minds and bodies of Queer and Trans Pacific Islanders (QTPI or “cutie-pie”) through community organizing, community care, civic engagement, and cultural stewardship. UTOPIA works to create a vibrant space for members of their community to address basic needs, build pathways toward new expanded career and life opportunities, foster a sense of common purpose, and advocate for social justice, education and overall wellness among members of the QTPI community. As one part of their work, UTOPIA works to provide rental and financial assistance to community members, especially through the impacts of Covid-19.
The Living Cully coalition consists of four nonprofit community development organizations working to improve the quality of life of people of color and low-income people in Northeast Portland’s Cully neighborhood. Living Cully exists to support grassroots community organizing programs led by Cully residents who are vulnerable to displacement, with the goal of building long-term stability and resist gentrification. Cully resident organizing has resulted in the creation and preservation of thousands of units of affordable housing, a public park, and an upcoming Native arts gallery. Living Cully is currently working to implement a first-in-the-nation community-led development district, where Cully residents will play a lead role in investing tens of millions of dollars to strengthen their neighborhood and prevent displacement.
Voz Workers Rights Education Project | Portland, OR
Voz is a worker-led organization that empowers diverse day laborers and immigrants to improve their working conditions and protect civil rights through leadership development, organizing, education, and economic opportunity. Voz’s Housing Justice Campaign responds to urgent housing and food security needs, while also building leadership and organizing campaigns to advocate for day laborers to have access to housing resources at City and County levels. Our approach to housing justice includes creating resources that are culturally and linguistically accessible to their communities. The campaign provides know your rights training, housing alternatives, and timely organizing to combat fines, evictions and housing discrimination. With this new initiative, Voz will also provide direct housing assistance as well as support for other essentials like food security and health care.