Please make an end of year donation to support VOCAL’s grassroots activism building power among low-income people affected by HIV and hepatitis C, mass incarceration and the war on drugs.
Here’s some of what we helped accomplish this year with your support:
- Passed the first law in the country requiring healthcare providers to offer patients a test for the hepatitis C virus, which now kills more people nationwide than HIV even though most people with chronic infection can be cured – if they learn their status.
- Passed the Community Safety Act to rein in abusive policing practices by the NYPD, like Mayor Bloomberg and Ray Kelly’s unconstitutional stop and frisk program and searches that lead to arrests for marijuana and syringe possession.
- Organized Talking Transition events that drew over 500 New Yorkers to brainstorm ways Mayor de Blasio can end the HIV epidemic and war on drugs, and we spoke at a half-dozen more transition events on affordable housing, progressive taxation, Sandy rebuilding and other social justice issues.
- Established harm reduction services as a primary referral option for clients of the HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA), reforming a drug screening policy that could have denied emergency and permanent housing to homeless people living with HIV/AIDS if they didn’t comply with abstinence-based treatment.
- Hosted a Brooklyn District Attorney candidates forum, offering VOCAL members who have been victimized by the drug war and biased policing the chance to demand the top law enforcement official in Kings County commit to policies that would end mass incarceration.
- Unprecedented momentum for marijuana reform, including ending marijuana arrests that have become the number one cause of arrest in New York, primarily affect youth of color despite higher rates of marijuana use among young whites, and can lead to ongoing problems with employment, housing and education opportunities. We’re also helping build support for safe and legal access to medical marijuana and a separate bill that would tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol.
- Permanently restored supportive housing funding for over 4,500 formerly homeless people living with HIV/AIDS who have a history of substance use and mental health issues, ending an annual battle with the Bloomberg administration during the past five years.
- Published More Than A Home: How Affordable Housing for New Yorkers Living With HIV/AIDS Will Prevent Homelessness, Improve Health and Reduce Costs, a community-based research project that led to renewed attention to the homelessness crisis among people living with HIV/AIDS in NYC, including front-page coverage in the Metro and El Diario newspapers.
- Protected access to hepatitis C treatment for Medicaid patients by blocking forced enrollment in mail order pharmacy programs, which are especially problematic for homeless and unstably housed people with hepatitis C.
- Marked the second anniversary of Occupy Wall Street with a massive march and civil disobedience outside the United Nations calling on President Obama and other world leaders to back a Robin Hood Tax on Wall Street speculation, which would generate revenue that could help end AIDS and other crises like climate change and student debt.
- Made progress on expanding access to naloxone for people at risk of opioid overdose by partnering with methadone clinics and state and city health agencies to train hundreds of people and help set up new overdose prevention programs. And over the summer, VOCAL worked to build grassroots support for naloxone access by contacting more than 1,500 methadone patients with information on overdose and how to engage their clinic to build prevention services.
- Grew our membership, staff and even the office space! Thousands of VOCAL members took action to make sure the voices of those affected by policymaking in the halls of power were heard and listened to – by lobbying elected officials, holding rallies and press conferences, canvassing our neighbors, doing media interviews, publishing op-eds, and more! Our amazing staff kept growing too, with new positions like our Policy Director Matt Curtis and Political Director Alyssa Aguilera. And on January 1st, we’ll be expanding our office onto the second floor of our building to so we have more room for member-led phone banks, leadership meetings, our growing staff, and all those signs and banners we keep making.
It’s individual donations like yours that fund the bulk of our lobbying and direct action advocacy that makes concrete policy change like this possible.
We have big plans next year. We’ll push major syringe access and overdose prevention initiatives, passage of the “30% rent cap” affordable housing bill for people living with HIV/AIDS at risk of homelessness, integration of harm reduction services as part of healthcare reform, a “ban the box” law to stop employment discrimination against people who are formerly incarcerated, a statewide plan to end AIDS under Governor Cuomo, and much more. Your support will help make it possible.
Please donate today. If you have questions or want to speak with someone at VOCAL directly, contact Anna Saini at (646) 409-4164 or anna (at) vocal-ny.org. Thank you for supporting our work!