Saving Lives of Sex Workers and Addicts on Skid Row: Sidewalk Project

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The Sidewalk Project uses harm reduction to help save the lives of addicts and sex workers living homeless on Los Angeles’s Skid Row. And yes, they hand out weed to help homeless people with trauma and other medical reasons. While we know many will be offended that this organization provides free marijuana, we hope those same people will be more offended that humans live without adequate housing! Marijuana is becoming socially acceptable because it’s proven to help people, yet homelessness is unacceptable because it kills people.

Soma Snakeoil is co-founder of the Sidewalk Project. Soma is an amazing woman. She is a harm reductionist, a nonprofit director, an artist, a musician, and she’s a professional dominatrix. Soma created the Sidewalk Project with Stacey Dee of Bad Cop Bad Cop using art and music in public health initiatives to help unhoused people. Unfortunately, because of the pandemic, the Sidewalk Project has not held music events, but that doesn’t stop these women from going out often every day to help people.

Jen Elizabeth is a harm reductionist and leads the Specialized Women’s Program at The Sidewalk Project. Jen’s focus is on supporting sex workers living and working near Skid Row. Jen is a former sex worker and sexual abuse survivor. Jen is also a trauma coach and author writing about recovery and destigmatization of sex work.

Harm reduction is often thought of as a set of practical strategies and ideas to reduce negative consequences associated with drug use; however, you are practicing harm reduction when you brush your teeth or fasten your seatbelt. Harm reduction saves lives. There is a false belief that harm reduction enables addicts to keep using, but the real truth is, a dead addict never recovers.

People use drugs to escape pain. America has a long history of a punitive response to addiction, which only creates more pain for the addict and their families. We must stop locking people up and start treating addiction as the health crisis that it is.

Sex workers and addicts are people – real people. They deserve love, respect, and grace just like everyone else. The Sidewalk Project helps people often ignored by government agencies, traditional nonprofits, and faith-based organizations. Because of this, they fulfill a tremendous need in saving lives but also do not receive the funding and support other nonprofits do.

To find out more about the Sidewalk Project and support their important work, please click here 

Invisible Stories is a mini-doc series that goes beyond the rhetoric, statistics, political debates, and limitations of social services to examine poverty in America via a medium that audiences of all ages understand, and can’t ignore.

Click here to watch more Invisible Stories mini-documentaries on homelessness.


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