Lysistrata was originally founded in NYC November of 2016 after the presidential election when we started holding small meetings in an apartment that was also being used for more social and labor rights oriented SW events. At the time, the Backpage offices had recently been raided and a few of the better orgs we knew to be offering services to more marginalized workers in our area were experiencing periods of reduced activity. The addition of the new political climate made us feel that it was important for more privileged workers to be doing concrete work to assist more marginalized workers and for us to be finding ways to care for each other’s well being collectively.
At first, we had planned to mostly be organizing locally and to be working together to offer things like support groups, rideshares, client screening, childcare, harm reduction kits/training etc. After Backpage actually shut down their Adult Services section a couple of workers were collecting funds to redistribute and we started an informal emergency fund as well. Over the course of the next few months we had some of our founders step back due to chronic health issues and most of the core members we had remaining were planning cross country moves so our plans for in-person services never fully took off but we were able to maintain our online community and keep a petty standing fund to have on hand to cover small, but important, emergencies like cell phone bills and groceries.
Over this past year as we’ve been stabilizing in our new locations and have had more funding to work with we’re trying to pick up part of our original concept of local community organizing by familiarizing ourselves with the particular conditions workers are facing in our areas (NYC, Colorado, and Georgia are where we have the strongest connections right now). We’re also partnering with SW activists who are offering similar direct services to marginalized populations they are members of, many of whom have been largely self funding their projects by working in the industry. Since large funders are often reluctant to donate to these types of projects, one of our main priorities currently is being able to set a sustainable budget so we can offer monthly stipends to help further the efforts of these activists and help compensate them for the work they’re doing!
We’re also working to find ways to make the Emergency Fund more accessible to vulnerable street based workers as well as seeking ways to compile regional SW friendly services and community events to be able to offer longer term networking and support to new members and people we have assisted with funds.