Campaign for Housing and Mutual Aid
Imagine our surprise when we looked at the calendar and realized that the 20th anniversary of Freedom Project had passed by us last year and we were so deep in the work that we hadn’t even noticed! We missed the chance to celebrate this achievement and acknowledge all the amazing work from community members like you, from Freedom Project’s inception until now. Every single one of us that has ever been involved is a critical part of this community, and we are so grateful for your contributions of time, talent, values, vision, money, caring and hope. Thank you for making Freedom Project what it is today – a community organization rooted in a consciousness of compassionate communication, committed to healing from and dismantling mass incarceration.
It has been amazing to see the work evolve, moving the consciousness of NVC (Nonviolent Communication) into the direct action of systemic change. In 2018, we had a staff of 5 and 50 volunteers supporting NVC workshops inside prisons. Today, we have a team of 25 people, with hundreds of community members inside and outside of the prisons actively working with us to keep us accountable and showing up for the community in a way that’s needed. Most importantly, 93% of our team is Black, brown and impacted by incarceration. We’ve expanded to serve as first responders in the community, providing direct support for basic needs, shelter, food, community support and healing. And because the need in Eastern Washington is so great, we now have 3 full-time team members based in Spokane. We have also expanded to address the root causes of systemic inequity through engagement in legislative advocacy to enact policy change and shift the harmful underlying narratives about our community that underpin these policies.
This year clarified for us why it matters so much that we are committed to our values of being community- centered and community-directed. To value relationships over resources. To see people for their humanity, regardless of the circumstances. Too often we feel the squeeze of the “nonprofit industrial complex” that tries to turn people into points of data and ends up keeping people in a cycle of dependency, just barely above water. What we do looks and feels different because we prioritize relationships instead of just dispensing a resource and checking a box. We are working to build a community that can sustain itself, that has the resources it needs and caring relationships to close the gaps together.
Over the last few years, we’ve been working hard to be able to respond to our community’s urgent needs for resources and healing. Unfortunately, the pandemic and so-called “racial reckoning” of 2020 only illuminated and aggravated harm that has always existed in our community. Many have already moved past the urgency of these crises, though there have been no real structural changes. However, for us, the situation is always urgent, as Black, Indigenous and People of Color are still being consistently targeted and impacted by police violence and incarceration in record numbers.
When the pandemic hit, Federal and State funding became available and we worked hard to funnel as much as possible to meet emergency needs for rental assistance, food, emergency shelter, basic needs, as well as community support and spaces for healing. This year so far, we have provided intensive one-on-one support to over 489 individuals and families. Because we are in the community, from the community, and directed by the community, we are able to offer support as a community. We are committed to removing undue restrictions on receiving aid, and work to ensure that the intake process is trauma-informed and relationship-centered.
Rooted in these values, we were invited to be a part of the Regional Peacekeepers Collective in 2021. RPKC is a collective of 13 community-based organizations and Harborview Medical Center, the number one trauma hospital in the Pacific Northwest. These organizations are working together with a regional approach in addressing gun violence through an intervention, prevention, and restoration model. Based on our organization’s existing work and commitment to this work in the community, we were chosen to be part of a 16-jurisdictional initiative, announced under the Biden-Harris Administration’s Comprehensive Strategy to reduce, prevent, and respond to community-based gun violence.
Oppressive systems don’t want to dismantle themselves. If we don’t address the root causes, we are only offering a band-aid. We want to create a world where the work we do is no longer needed, so in the last 2 years we have worked hard to change policies, disrupt harmful narratives, and deepen relationships with lawmakers and people in the legal systems to stop harm from perpetuating. For example, because of the advocacy work of our Beyond the Blindfold of Justice project, we convinced King County to streamline its cumbersome, laborious, and impactful process of filing for records expungement and refunds, helping to correct the devastating impact of bad laws enacted and executed during the “war on drugs.”
By centering those closest to the issues, we’ve been able to support many important community initiatives. Even though we’ve been able to do a lot with the funding we’ve received thus far, we’ve had to work hard to stay rooted in our values while navigating the “nonprofit industrial complex,” so that we don’t end up duplicating the very systems we seek to dismantle. We’ve been able to cultivate relationships and have powerful conversations with funders about the ways our community gets impacted by even the best intentions. For example, by bringing a trauma-informed framework that centers our community’s brilliance, we’ve been able to help funders change pre-existing policies that have historically caused harm.
All the work and growth we have done over the last 2 years, to center the leadership of those most impacted by mass incarceration, puts us in the pivotal position to sustain the kinds of support our community has looked to us to provide for — but we can’t do it without your support. As we look ahead to 2023, the COVID funding has dried up, but the needs in the community haven’t gone away.
Our goal is to start the new year with at least $50,000 of unrestricted support in our mutual aid fund, for housing and basic needs, free from government restrictions, to support those who are the most marginalized and aren’t eligible for support from restricted funding buckets. Can you make a much-needed gift to our mutual aid fund? Support for rental assistance, emergency housing, and move-in costs helps community members finally find permanent housing, instead of staying in a perpetual survival mode. If you are able, please make a gift here.
Are you ready to give differently? If so, you’re invited to listen to David share his experiences on the “First Responder” episode of the People over Plastic podcast. Then, would you consider making a monthly gift as part of a conscious practice to shift funds to communities historically under-resourced and overly-impacted by the racial wealth gap?
Are there other needs or ways you want to connect or give? Did something you read in this letter inspire an idea or a passion? If so, let us know — we look forward to connecting! We
are all in this together and we cannot do this work without you.
With love and gratitude,
The Freedom Project Family