Saturday, October 15, 2011

Stop Violence Against Queer Homeless Folks

Support QEJ and the Shelter Safety Campaign!

On October 1, 2011, QEJ lost a member of our family, Yvonne McNeal, to police violence.
Yvonne was a member of QEJ's Shelter Support Group. She was openly queer, living in the New York shelter system, 57 years old, a woman of color, walked with a cane, and her life was taken by the police. Once again the police chose to use lethal violence in a situation that could have ended without loss of life or physical harm to anyone involved.

Once more the life of a poor, queer, butch identified, person of color was discounted and discarded by an act of violence. Both inside and outside the New York shelters, the lives of the most vulnerable are also plagued by violence, often from the people tasked with keeping us safe. Poor bodies, queer bodies, women's bodies, transgender bodies, immigrant bodies and homeless bodies are too often the targets of violence. These are lives and people with stories and the right to live free from harm, in safe and nurturing environments, and with the right to walk the streets without fear. This is our community.

QEJ's Shelter Safety Campaign was created in June 2011 as a direct response to the violence found in and around the New York City homeless shelters. Through direct action organizing, shelter support groups, and off shelter site programming, QEJ works in partnership with shelter residents to address the issues that impact their lives and provide the skills, training, and support needed so shelter residents can create accountability amongst themselves and within the shelters to provide greater safety.

In the wake of Yvonne's murder, QEJ created an offsite space for shelter residents to enjoy a meal and have the time and space to talk about Yvonne's loss while also sharing their hopes and fears around responses to this act of violence. The reality of living in the shelters is that systemic violence often goes unreported or unaddressed because of fear of retribution by the police or shelter staff. Homelessness is not a moral failing. Living in a shelter should not be dehumanizing.

QEJ, working with shelter residents, is creating a response to Yvonne's murder that will address the tragedy without amplifying resident's fear of reprisal. As part of a long term strategy, QEJ is using this horrific event to raise awareness and create a coalition of allied organizations to address the violence survived daily by our queer and trans family in the NYC Shelter System.

But doing this work comes at a cost, and QEJ relies on our community to support our work, hold oppressive systems accountable and create systemic change that radically alters power relationships. Justice is a fundamental human right but in a capitalistic system, it doesn't come freely.

Help us end the targeting of our communities. Your one time gift of $25, $50, $100, or $250 will change lives; for example, $25 will pay for one shelter group session, and $100 will pay metro fare and dinner for a Know Your Rights training at QEJ's office.

Or, partner with us long term, and become a monthly sustaining donor. A monthly gift of $15, $25, $50, or $75 over the course of the year may cost you a couple of trips to Starbucks but will give us the chance to fight to keep from losing another member of our family to systemic violence.

To make a gift, go to

We are making the tools that will dismantle the master's house and build us all a safe, just, and powerful home in which to live.

With love and passion,

W. Brandon Lacy Campos
Development Director
Queers for Economic Justice

PS Again, you can donate at

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