Reflecting on our last year, there is no question the past 12 months have been immensely challenging. But it’s a challenge we have met with passion and determination.
The COVID19 pandemic has critically affected the sex worker, transgender/gender non-conforming (TGNC), impoverished, homeless, and drug-using communities that SJI serves. We are seeing more need than we have ever seen in the organization's history. Since the start of the pandemic, SJI has served 10,200 clients through engagement with outreach, clinic, and mental health services, a Transgender housing program, Our Mujeres TransLatinas En Accion group, syringe access sites, and the “STRIDE” Transgender healthcare program. That is nearly double the number of clients typically served. Along with direct service, SJI maintains its mission of meeting the needs of people engaged in the sex trade through campaigning for social justice and continues to prioritize advocacy for sex workers.
Current advocacy efforts are focused on SB357, which would end abusive profiling of women of color--especially trans women of color--accused of “loitering with intent to commit prostitution.” SJI has additionally joined coalitions advocating for increased access to housing (not shelters), and for drug user health and well-being, including ending the violent war on drugs, removing police from hospitals and other public health services, and creating safe consumption sites for drug users in San Francisco. In addition to pivoting direct services in response to the pandemic, we’ve made major changes inside the organization: the internal leadership structure of SJI has shifted over the past year.
In alignment with SJI’s foundation as a peer-based occupational health and safety clinic for sex workers of all genders, a co-leadership model is a natural next step. Starting in November 2020, SJI program directors, with the support of the Board of Directors, began restructuring the organization based on knowledge sourced from the Nonviolent Global Liberation movement founded by Miki Kashtan. We are now a Co-Directorship, made up of 10 program directors who work collaboratively on conflict engagement and organizational decisions made using the advice process. SJI has also initiated a racial equity audit and begun the process of further training and consideration of how to best facilitate the leadership of BIPOC community members.
For more than two decades, SJI has led the way in offering direct services in response to crises of criminalization, stigma, and impoverishment--and we continue to do so. The “Our Trans Home” transitional housing program serves a particularly crucial need. San Francisco has long been a refuge for Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming people (TGNC). However, trans homelessness has been an ongoing crisis. Due to the nontraditional nature of sex work, and the systemic discrimination against TGNC people in housing, employment, and healthcare, TGNC people are unable to access employment benefits, which contributes greatly to housing insecurity. TGNC people are 18 times more likely to experience homelessness and experience increased discrimination, harassment, and violence when trying to access shelters and housing services. In January of 2020, SJI opened its first transitional housing program for transgender and gender non-conforming adults, the Bobbie Jean Baker House. This housing program is the first of its kind, providing trans-specific cultural competence, an all-trans staff who are majority trans women, and majority people of color. The transitional home prioritizes houseless TGNC individuals who are BIPOC, disabled, elders, HIV+, and/or current or former sex workers. The Our Trans Home housing program serves 80 TGNC people with rental assistance, housing navigation services, and transitional housing and houses 15 people at a time at the transitional home.
In March 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, SJI made major shifts in the ways and types of services it offers. Mental health and clinical services transitioned to online virtual meetings, over-the-phone offerings, and socially distanced outdoor sessions, and the clinic has continued to provide urgent and trauma-related care, linkage to HIV+ care services, and clinical services like STI testing and treatment and hormones. SJI’s outreach team kicked into full gear, creating a home delivery service for current and former sex workers to ensure that necessities for survival, including food and PPE, are plentiful. Via SJI’s street outreach van, groceries have been delivered twice a week along with meals, masks and hand sanitizer, condoms and lube, hygiene products, wound care supplies, and safer drug use supplies. These same supplies have been delivered to strip clubs and massage parlors, as well as neighborhoods where street-based sex workers work in San Franciso. As the overdose crisis intensified during this pandemic year, we responded with increased services for people who use drugs. We hired a new Director of Harm Reduction; more than doubled our distribution of Narcan in early 2021; and added a fourth syringe access site, in collaboration with the Hope Center, which offers a free clinic and many additional resources for women, trans, and gender-nonconforming people.
Our community-based health services provide aid to many marginalized communities. Mujeres TransLatinas En Accion offers support to TransLatina sex workers each week. SJI’s partnership with Openhouse features a group for senior TGNC people. We have also joined the fight against COVID-19 by providing the vaccine ourselves. SJI has provided vaccines to over 70 current and former sex workers and their family members. SJI program participants state that they would rather come to SJI for services because they know they will not be judged or lectured about their sex work activities.
We want to reach through and beyond our in-person interactions, creating virtual spaces of connection when we can’t get together in person. So, SJI has launched “Dear Sex Workers, We Love You,” an online series for sex workers that includes a “sex work and parenting” support group, mindfulness meditation, advice on money management and taxes, an art therapy group, and more. The isolation of sex workers has always been a struggle, but the pandemic showed that we need each other more than ever. Our online series is just one attempt to break the isolation.
The staff and volunteers of SJI have been working tirelessly to champion our community and this year we lost our most storied champion, and founder, Margo St. James. The recent memorial for her has sparked an intergenerational push to further the movement to decriminalize sex work and to offer dignity and well-being to all sex workers. St. James Infirmary’s staff and volunteers hope to see this change in our lifetime and we will continue to provide excellent, free, peer-based harm reduction services to our community for as long as it takes.
Thank you to all our participants, staff, volunteers, funders, and supporters!
International Sex Worker Days
March 3rd- International Sex Workers' Rights Day
This day began when over 25,000 sex workers gathered in India for a festival organized by a Calcutta-based group called Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (Unstoppable Women's Synthesis Committee), despite protests pressuring the government to revoke the permit for the parade in 2001. *From Wikipedia*
June 2nd- International Sex Workers' Day
This day began June 2, 1975, in Lyon, France, when a group of sex workers met in a church to express their anger about exploitative living conditions and the criminalization they face because of their work.
September 14th- International Sex Worker Pride
Sex Worker Pride began in 2019, and is an opportunity to celebrate and share stories of sex workers’ self-determination and the achievements of the sex worker rights movement. Sex Worker Pride extends to all marginalised by criminalisation, discrimination and stigma across the sex worker movement and celebrates the diversity within our community during International Sex Worker Pride. *From *NSWP Global Network of Sex Work Projects.
December 17th- International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers
In 2003, Dr. Anne Sprinkle founded the Sex Workers Outreach Project USA and held a vigil on this day for the victims of the Green River Killer, and this day has been commemorated ever since to remember the victims of violent crimes and fight discrimination of crimes related to sex work.
Dear Sex Workers We Love You
Online Workshops for Sex Workers
Featuring workshops and groups centering sex workers on creative writing, support for sex worker parents, mindfulness meditation for resilience, an upcoming writing workshop, and a weekly art hangout!
For a complete list of offerings and to register for our Dear Sex Workers We Love You online Series, please click the link below.
Welcome, New Staff!
St. James Infirmary is delighted to have some wonderful new faces join our team this year!
Providing Housing for the TGNC Community
The OurTransHome program started in 2019 to house Transgender and Gender Non Conforming people in San Francisco. There are two parts of the program: The Bobbie Jean Baker House, a transitional home with 15 beds, and a rental subsidy program that aids 80 people with rent assistance!
The OurTransHome team of staff is working hard to secure more support for TGNC housing! At this time our program is full but you can email [email protected]
For more information, or to fill out an application and join the waitlist.
What We Believe
There are many factors which affect the working conditions and experiences for all Sex Workers including the political and economic climate, poverty and homelessness, stigmatization, violence, as well as the overwhelming intricacies of the legal, public and social systems. It is the philosophy of St. James Infirmary to build upon existing skills and strengths in order to allow individuals to determine their own goals.
- We are fundamentally against the criminalizing of Sex Workers—regardless of our different perspectives on decriminalization or legalization, the collective view of the St. James Infirmary is that incarceration of our community further marginalizes and disenfranchised us, which creates barriers to capacity building, and exacerbates a public health crisis.
- We believe in revolution through healthcare. We challenge the conventional healthcare model that divides patients and providers and fosters unhealthy power dynamics. Our peer-based model creates a safe, trusted, and honest environment in which to provide services, and empowers our community to define our own well-being.
- We are founded on the principles of harm reduction—St. James Infirmary supports Sex Workers being treated with dignity and respect, in every aspect of their lives
- We increase access to primary healthcare and social services for Sex Workers throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
- We formalize communication and collaboration among individuals and agencies who serve Sex Workers to better serve our community.
- We promote peer-based public health initiatives on behalf of Sex Workers, which may be used as a model for improving occupational health and safety standards and developing comprehensive medical and social services for Sex Workers around the world.
From Our Blog
St James Infirmary: 22 year old organization serving the sex worker community during its most challenging year, re-structures its leadership
After a tumultuous year of change and loss due to Covid, economic crisis, an overdose epidemic, and more, the St James Infirmary has solidified their dedication to the sex worker community and to themselves. The 22 year old organization was founded by several sex worker activists and healthcare advocates, including the recently dearly departed San […]Read More
Prostitution: A Plethora of Ps By Margo St. James Published as an Editorial in the San Francisco Examiner, November 16, 1995 There are many P words when it comes to Prostitution. Prohibition is a Prerequisite of course, for Popular Participation. Please Peruse Players in this Popular Pastime. Besides the Principal Person, the Prostitute: Proffered in […]Read More
For Immediate Release 23 February 2021 SAVE THE DATE – A Celebration of Margo St. James’ Life Scheduled for May 1, 2021 Founder of COYOTE (Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics): Witness History On January 11, 2021, Margo St. James, founder of the first prostitutes’ rights organization in the United States, died in her hometown […]Read More
23 FEBRUARY 2021 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: CONTACT: KATE MARQUEZ/ [email protected] SAVE THE DATE REMEMBERING MARGO ST. JAMES, FOUNDER OF COYOTE (CALL OFF YOUR OLD TIRED ETHICS) WITNESS HISTORY, 1 MAY 2021 – 11:00 AM, PACIFIC TIME REGISTER AT www.stjamesinfirmary.org Everybody knew about Margo, who was culturally influential at the national level and a local celebrity […]Read More
Margo St. James, Advocate for Sex Workers, Dies at 83 Please click this link to read the article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/20/us/margo-st-james-dead.html?referringSource=articleShare === For info on Margot St. James’ mayday memorial <a href=”http://www.margostjames.com/”>click here</a>.Read More
Margo St. James, founder of COYOTE (Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics), has died. Born in Bellingham, Washington on September 12, 1937, St. James moved to San Francisco on St. Patrick’s Day in 1958, securing a room above the El Matador on Broadway. She would later join the beatnik scene, hanging out in jazz clubs […]Read More
With profound sadness, the St. James Infirmary announces the death of the most storied among our founders, Margo St. James. The St. James Infirmary is a part of Margo’s legacy. So too are her deeds and words that exposed hypocrisy with extraordinary wit. Much can be said of Margo, but her own words offer the […]Read More
If you want to be part of a historic sex worker organization fighting for the most marginalized among our community then apply today! We’re building a strong team that represents the people that we serve. If you are passionate about social justice and providing truly client-centered healthcare, then please contact us. OTH Housing Director Job […]Read More