Elizabeth Owens is the GROW Community Organizer at VOCAL. Her job is to grow the membership, or as she puts it, “to build the family”. She came to VOCAL after years of being homeless andfinding herself criminalized and stigmatized for her drug use. Like so many women, Elizabeth’s drug use came from a place of pain and coping to get through a difficult life.
Elizabeth first joined VOCAL after one of our organizers facilitated a teach-in at a harm reduction program she attended. She recognized that VOCAL was an organization that is working on all of the issues and trauma that she, and so many of the women that she knew, have had to endure: the criminalization of drug users, HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C, homelessness. She recognized that it was the people who were directly impacted who were coming up with the solutions and she wanted to be a part of our movement.
Elizabeth began volunteering, regularly, for an entire year. She brought her experience creating ”families” of homeless LGBT youth who were out on the streets because of discrimination, bringing them into her home and providing emotional support.. VOCAL leaders, recognizing her commitment and her innate ability to create a community, recommended that she be hired as a full-time organizer over three years ago.
As Elizabeth says, “This is the first club that I’ve joined that doesn’t discriminate against people for their past history – their drug use or their time on the streets. The thing that I love most about VOCAL is meeting with the members. I meet people and let them know that they have a family for life here. I really believe that I am their sister from another mother, with love and hugs to share.”
Elizabeth is so VOCAL because she organizes from a place of love. When you meet her, and you will, just know that she doesn’t do handshakes. She gives everyone a hug in order to bring back the human touch to so many of us who have been isolated and duped by the decisions that end with a handshake.
Meet Elizabeth at our She’s So VOCAL Gala on June 18th. Please buy your tickets now for this special event celebrating women, like Wanda, who have dedicated their lives and careers to ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the drug war, and mass incarceration.
You can also toast the accomplishments of Elizabeth, and our other women leaders by sponsoring the event or buying a journal ad in their honor.