“As a city, for the first time in a long time, we are going to be prioritizing the needs of women that are routintely dismissed, vilified, and marginalized.”
– Nicole Bell, CEO
October 22, 2020
People deserve shelter, women deserve shelter, women deserve shelter that is safe and accessible. For too long the shelter systems in our community have been inaccessible to women experiencing homelessness. If women don’t have particular qualifiers like being a victim of domestic violence, or having children, or being in recovery, or being actively treated for a mental health disorder and all of their symptoms managed, there are little to no options to find shelter at night, and the limited option is certainly not a safe space for women.
Traditional shelters offer a warm place to sleep and, sometimes, a meal. However, they do not factor in the trauma that women experiencing homelessness exist with every day. They do not provide access to resources needed to stabilize and begin the journey towards being housed by reducing barriers that make this journey insurmountable. Barriers like lack of transportation and funds, a hesitation to engage with community resources from healthcare, to public benefits, to social service organizations because the unfortunate history of maltreatment of survivors by these agencies and systems prevent women experiencing homelessness from taking even one step towards being housed.
What if we could eliminate those barriers? What if we could provide shelter for these women in a space that they are treated as the whole human beings they are? A place where their trauma experiences and responses are considered, where we could bring the resources and supports, they need TO THEM in a space where they feel safe, with a team they trust, and on their own terms.
Well, quite simply, we can. LIFT is proud to announce the HARBOR program. HARBOR (Healthcare, Advocacy, Room, Board, Outreach, Rehousing) is a collaborative initiative that unites multiple community partners to create and support a day program and a 15-bed overnight shelter for women experiencing homelessness, commercial sexual exploitation, substance/opioid use disorder, and or mental health disorders. As a city, for the first time in a long time, we are going to be prioritizing the needs of women that are routinely dismissed, vilified, and marginalized. Our zero-barrier-access shelter will cater to the needs of trauma survivors and women at risk of exploitation as MOST women experiencing homelessness have had to exchange sex for drugs, money, or a place to stay.
LIFT would like to thank City Manager Edward M. Augustus, Jr., and the Commissioner of Health and Human Services, Dr. Matilde Castiel, for giving us the opportunity to show up for survivors in our community in a meaningful way. With the support of the city and other local agencies, we are looking forward to HARBOR being a comprehensive resource for marginalized women in Worcester.
Stay tuned to our social media pages for updates on HARBOR. For opportunities to join the movement to abolish prostitution and support this program and the work LIFT does, please contact us at Lift@liftworcester.org.