Yes on 3

Posted on by Joy Mosenfelder

Guest Blog by Aaron Piracini, Transgender Health Coordinator, Victory Programs’ Mobile Prevention Team

There have been a lot of questions and uncertainty around Ballot Question 3 recently, and with the November election just around the corner, it’s beginning to feel more and more confusing. As some of you may already know, we at Victory Programs are publicly supporting the Yes on 3 campaign so that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts can continue to be an open and diverse community centered on inclusivity of everyone, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation. Regardless of how you decide to vote on this issue it’s important to know the facts and be aware of some of the myths and misinformation being circulated.

So let’s start with the basics: What does a “Yes” or “No” vote even mean? On July 7th 2016 the House of Representatives and the Senate approved a law that, in the words of the ballot question, “adds gender identity to the list of prohibited grounds for discrimination in places of public accommodation”. A key thing to note right away is the term “Public Accommodation”. A lot of uncertainty around this question comes from the idea that this law is completely focused on public restrooms when, in reality, it protects people from discrimination based on their gender identity in any place that is open to the public and provides goods or services. These “Public Accommodations” include hotels, restaurants, public parks, public transportation, and yes, public restrooms.

The campaign supporting the “No” vote is claiming safety issues as their main concern.  They say these non-discrimination protections could be used as cover for misconduct in restrooms, and that legally protecting transgender people in public places endangers women and children because it allows cisgender men to invade women’s spaces with intent to do harm. But that’s not true. It is still illegal to enter a restroom or a locker room to harm someone, and the law explicitly prohibits people from falsely using gender identity as an excuse for improper behavior. If that didn’t convince you, take a look at the 18 states and more than 200 municipalities that have passed laws protecting transgender people in public spaces, including Massachusetts in 2016 and 14 Massachusetts municipalities prior to the statewide law, and haven’t had any issues. In fact, since 2012, Massachusetts law has allowed transgender folks in public schools to use the facilities that align with their gender identity and there have been no reported incidents. If this is something our children or grandchildren can easily grasp, the rest of us should be able to as well.

Finally, some of you may be wondering why we’re talking about this at all. Massachusetts is thought of as an extremely progressive and forward-thinking state, so a lot of people are under the impression that discrimination against transgender people simply doesn’t happen here. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.  In 2014, a survey performed by the Fenway Institute and the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition found that 65% of transgender folks in Massachusetts had experienced discrimination in a public place in the past 12 months. That means that, out of the 452 people surveyed, approximately 294 people had reported experiencing anti-transgender discrimination in 2014, and that only includes the folks we know about.

At Victory Programs, we aim to create a community that is diverse, promotes positivity, and maintains a climate centered on inclusivity for everyone. Upholding the current protections for our transgender neighbors is essential to maintaining the culture of respect, dignity, and equality that we as citizens of the commonwealth greatly value. By voting to uphold these protections, we send a clear message from those of us that support our transgender neighbors, to those that don’t: you’re out-numbered.

 

Please remember to vote on November 6! You can find your polling place here.

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International Infection Prevention Week

Posted on by Joy Mosenfelder

International Prevention Infection Week is October 14 – 20, 2018

Guest Blog by Taryn Lipiner, Mobile Prevention Team Intern

Prevention involves the steps taken to lower or eliminate exposure to certain risks that may potentially increase the likelihood that an individual or group will experience disease, disability, or premature death. Prevention can be characterized into three types: primary prevention, secondary prevention, and tertiary prevention. Primary prevention refers to the efforts that are undertaken to eliminate health or functional issues at their source, as well as the procedures that aid in reducing the incidence of disease, such as increasing physical activity or strengthening emotional well-being. Secondary prevention involves the efforts utilized to detect adverse health outcomes at their beginning stage, to ultimately intervene promptly and effectively in order to prevent the spread of disease to other individuals. Finally, tertiary prevention aims to reduce the duration as well as the severity of disease and disability, to lower complications of the disease once the diagnosis has been made, to minimize suffering, and to assist individuals in adjusting to their current situation regarding their condition.

The success of disease prevention programs depends on several factors: one is having an informed and knowledgeable public, which is entirely dependent upon the widespread circulation of the benefits and harmful effects to health and well-being of certain behaviors. A successful disease prevention program is also determined by the willingness of individuals to alter their habits, attitudes and behaviors, taking full responsibility for their health and the health of their family. At Victory Programs’ Mobile Prevention Team, we recognize and serve the needs of community members throughout Boston—improving health outcomes by seamlessly connecting clients to resources and knowledge through navigation, outreach and education. Our central goal is to reduce mortality and enhance the quality of life for the individuals we serve.

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If I could just stop drinking, I could have everything I ever wanted in life…

Posted on by Joy Mosenfelder

Tommy, Victory House, September 2018

I knew I needed to work on my recovery when I started drinking again. I was in a relationship at the time and out of the blue I just found an excuse to start drinking with her. I thought I could have just one, but there is no such thing as just one for an alcoholic like me. I went to detox, but after detox I wasn’t able to stay sober. Two days later I went to the hospital and they detoxed me in the facility. I’m just sick and tired of being sick and tired because the alcohol, it just grabs a hold of you. I knew there was nothing I could do but get back into treatment. Boston has so much opportunity for people who need treatment. I’ve been at Victory Programs before. It’s one of the best programs I’ve been in because knowledge and education is key. Knowing why I act this way and why I do these behaviors. They are always pointing me in the right direction. It’s a big help knowing people in the sober community.

When I made the decision to come back into recovery I was living on the street inside my car with my girlfriend. Money was starting to run low. It was the first time I’d ever lived in my car. I was pulled over and the cops gave me a choice between either getting arrested or sent to the hospital. Right after I got out of the hospital, the money it cost me to get the car out of impound, that $5 bottle of vodka cost me $500. My girlfriend was a huge motivator for me to stay in detox. I could see that if I could just stop drinking I could have everything I ever wanted in life, the things I need will come and anything I want is really extra. I need to be better prepared for that. I need more coping skills and there are things I have to learn that I haven’t learned in the past. There are things I haven’t done before like joining a sober fellowship and doing commitments. That is a major part of my recovery this time around.

I never really understood the term fellowship until last year. I never knew it was actually an active group of sober people who hang out and do positive things together. We go to other recovery programs and share our experience, strength, and hope cause that was us once. I can give back what was freely given to me. I always wondered what it was like to be on the other side of the table. Being able to sit there and see the expressions on other people’s faces, it is worth more than money. It’s seriously a miracle. It’s the power of giving back.

A couple of weeks ago we actually just went to the beach, and that is not something I would have just done while sober. The last time I was at the beach sober was as a kid. There I was just laying in the sun, talking about life. The sober community is a blessing. They are always there to help. I like having that network of positive people around me to help me grow. They don’t want anything back in return. My home group keeps me motivated. As a group member I do service work. I show up to the meeting early and make coffee. The best part of showing up early is you get to meet everyone that comes in to the meeting.

Being here at Victory House helps, too. There is always more to learn. Even that little refresher, there’s always that little bit. You might not have heard it the first time, but the second or third time it just pops into the back of your head like, wow, that’s what all that meant. I like the repetition of the groups and having that insight into what it really means to me and how I can benefit from the education. I like the program’s location because I am close to the T and everything is easily accessible. I easily get doctor’s appointments, meetings, and work.

I am currently working full time and I want to start school next month. I’m a carpenter, a builder with 18 years of experience. I’ve already had my company once. Going back to school and getting a business management degree for construction will really push me and give me that motivation. I can build anything, I just need to learn how to manage the books and work with people to get things done. I would have never done that if I hadn’t come to Victory House. They’ve given me the opportunity of a lifetime. If I just stay sober, follow the program and do those things I haven’t done before and ask for help. With all those life skills, running the business, it’s where I need to be. It’s not going to be easy, I mean, life itself isn’t easy. Being able to come to staff, if I have any issues with my family, they are always there for me. The road to recovery is my own personal journey and who I want to be in life.

I can come to the staff at Victory House for anything. Being able to talk to staff helps me cope with things. They give me advice. They point me in the right direction. They definitely help out a lot especially with the counseling and medication management. They were able to simplify things and help me not worry so much. They’ve helped me find the right balance with doctors and physical therapy to manage chronic pain. They are always there to give me a hand. Sometimes there are things I don’t see, and being able to ask for help really helps because some days it’s just rough. Staff really help keep me motivated.

I want people who are early in recovery, or thinking about recovery to think about giving themselves a chance. Do you want to die or do you want to give yourself a chance to live. There have been times in my life where I didn’t want to give myself a chance. Having known what that feels like, I want to share hope with people. It’s just such a good feeling. Even if it’s just that one person in group, or that one person in detox that has that light bulb pop off in their head and wants to give themselves a chance that’s a beautiful thing cause you can see it on the inside.

I can stay committed to my recovery because of the positive people around me. I’m the type that, if you aren’t going to help an addict, don’t hurt one. And to everyone working on recovery, never give up. Be the best version of yourself you can be. Don’t dwell on the past but don’t forget it either. If we never knew how hard life can be sometimes would we ever really know how great life is?

This blog post was based on an interview with Tommy, a client at Victory House, our first residential recovery program, and was transcribed and edited by Victory Programs’ staff with feedback from Tommy.

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A Summer of Opportunity

Posted on by Joy Mosenfelder

Our President and CEO, Jonathan Scott, has had a summer full of meaningful tributes and events! Jonathan was honored at the Community Research Initiative of New England (CRI) Summer Party on July 21 at the Red Inn with the Dr. Cal Cohen Founder’s Award in recognition of his forty years of innovative leadership at the helm of Victory Programs. You can read more about the CRI Summer Party here and view Jonathan’s moving acceptance speech here.

Jonathan also gave a Tribute at this year’s Pilgrim Monument & Museum Flag Raising. This annual event signals the start of Provincetown Carnival and a full week of town activities. Jonathan was selected as one of  Carnival’s 40 Grand Marshalls commemorating the 40th anniversary.

More than 100,000 people gathered to watch the parade, led by be-dazzling costumed “Grand Marshall Jonathan” and other sparkling Grand Marshalls and their friends in this year’s Carnival theme “Mardi Gras By the Sea.” They led the parade  bearing the specially designed official  rainbow flag signed by Gilbert Baker, the world famous political activist who created the first rainbow flag in 1978, as it wound down the 3 miles of a very boisterous and rollicking Commercial Street.

At the end of carnival week, The Provincetown Business Guild’s newly opened LGBTQ Welcome Center “The Shack” hosted  two activist survivors of the Parkland, Florida school shooting, current Parkland student, Dimitri Hoth, and history teacher, Greg Pittman, at the Provincetown Public Library. The Business Guild invited Jonathan to share his story of having been a young gun shot victim and survivor during an unexpected work crisis early in his career with all of the students present. State Senator Julian Cyr and State Representative Sarah Peake co-facilitated this powerful and deeply moving listening session about gun violence and student-led efforts to reform gun-control.

We are proud to work under the leadership of such a deeply respected activist and advocate here at Victory Programs and we wanted to share the ways in which he continue to be a voice for social justice, equity, and the community members we serve every day across our 19 health, housing and prevention programs.

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August 15, 2018

Posted on by Joy Mosenfelder

As service providers, we at Victory Programs work daily with people who are struggling to make life sustaining decisions in the face of heartbreaking challenges.

Yesterday and today, we were witness to an example of the unfortunate consequences that sometimes happen when resources are scarce yet need is great. Individuals living in storage units, right across the street from our administrative offices on Massachusetts Avenue, were removed  due to legitimate safety concerns. Workers from the City of Boston were on site to offer assistance attempting to connect displaced individuals with services as needed.

The challenges people on the streets outside our windows face every day are often so much more complicated than simply having a place to sleep at night. Some individuals can’t, or won’t sleep in the shelters for various reasons. Many homeless individuals have a history of significant trauma, chronic chaotic substance use, fear of abuse, crave privacy, or other challenges many of us can’t begin to fathom.

At Victory Programs, our dedicated team of more than 200 staff members strives every day to stand next to these people and work with them on creative, safer solutions to whatever they are facing.

The Boston housing crisis is national news. At the moment, the average rent for an 815 square foot apartment is more than $3,000 a month or $36,240 a year. An individual on a fixed income makes about $9,000 a year. Even with a minimum wage increase to $15 an hour, someone working full time will only make $31,200 a year. For so many people, the math on finding affordable, market-rate housing just doesn’t work out.

In the past few years, the City of Boston and their partners have housed 580 formerly chronically homeless individuals and 800 veterans. Boston has the lowest percent of unsheltered people (people on the street or in situations unfit for human habitation like storage units) of any urban center. Our organization and others like us will continue to work with the city to do what we can to address homelessness in Boston, however, this crisis didn’t happen overnight. It won’t be solved overnight. And until it is solved we will continue to see individuals with limited resources and few options making choices many of us can’t comprehend because that is what they need to do to take care of themselves.

Sarah Porter, Chief Operations Officer, Victory Programs

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