Work and History
To counter the harms of structural disempowerment, SWAN: (1) connects to people on the streets to basic resources—often meeting people at their point of most urgent need, SWAN bridges the gap between the streets and social service organizations; (2) advocates alongside clients to local authorities and service providers, as they generally have little understanding of the needs of those involved in sex work. The stigma that sex workers experience in health care settings has a direct negative impact on their health.
Through outreach, SWAN provides local sex workers with harm-reductive personal care kits that help to minimize theft and subsequent arrest. Furthermore, several SWAN members are authorized to operate a needle exchange, allowing many sex workers to engage in safer drug use.
SWAN partners with the Cornell Scott Hill Health Center in New Haven to offer on-the-spot medical treatment, physical and psychological evaluations, and necessary prescriptions and referrals.
SWAN believes that the harm reduction philosophy of "meeting people where they are at" requires ongoing contact. SWAN members do outreach nearly every day to check in with the people they are supporting, and they do so at the sex workers' place of work.
The commitment to harm reduction means that SWAN attempts to meet people's most pressing needs without standing in judgment of their choices. SWAN is also committed to the principle of "nothing about us without us": the organization is led by people with experience in survival sex work. One of the key aims of the organization is to bring sex workers into decision-making roles both within the organization and within the city of New Haven.
Organizations SWAN Partners With
In order to bring our members the highest level of service and most resource options, SWAN partners with select area organizations.
SWAN is a member of the Greater Hartford Harm Reduction Coalition. "The Greater Hartford Harm Reduction Coalition (GHHRC) is dedicated to promoting the dignity and wellbeing of individuals and communities impacted by drug use. GHHRC holds that every individual deserves a participatory voice in the public dialogue regarding drug use policies, programs and practices. Through advocacy, training and service, GHHRC aims to ensure the availability, adequacy, accessibility and acceptability of services and resources that remediate the adverse consequences of drug use."
Yale University's Global Health Justice Partnership. The GHJP is "a program hosted jointly by Yale Law School (YLS) and Yale School of Public Health (YSPH) that tackles contemporary problems at the interface of global health, human rights, and social justice. The GHJP is pioneering an innovative, interdisciplinary field of scholarship, teaching, and practice, bringing together diverse thought leaders to collaborate on research, policy projects, and academic exchanges."
The Connecticut Bail Fund: "Connecticut Bail Fund allows people fighting criminal charges to return home, keep their jobs, maintain custody of their children, and defend themselves from a place of freedom. We operate a weekly Participatory Defense meeting, where people fighting cases can learn from others in a similar situation, build community, and develop action plans to defend themselves in court. Participatory Defense allows the individuals and families served by the bail fund to collectively organize against mass criminalization."
Cornell Scott-Hill Health Center's Homeless Health Care Outreach Team. Headed up by APRN Phil Costello, this team delivers medical and psych care, and provides referrals, all in the street. To read more about Phil and the team's work, click here, here, or here.
The Prison Project at Quinnipiac University: Professor Amber Kelly is a long-time member of SWAN and teaches in the School of Social Work. She runs a seminar titled "Teaching People in Prison to Cope with Trauma and Recovery" inside York Correctional with Quinnipiac students. She also facilitates SWAN's Self Care on the Streets group, where members learn and practice positive self-care and coping mechanisms, such as breathing techniques.
This year, Yale's Dwight Hall honored Executive Director Beatrice Codianni with the distinction of Neighbor in Residence. Dwight Hall shares much needed resources with SWAN and helps to nurture us as our programming and team grow. Additionally, SWAN is excited to be welcoming several Dwight Hall Fellows as members in Fall'18 to help with casework, fundraising, and other crucial tasks.
Check for events hosted by SWAN here and on our facebook.
In addition to providing resources and referrals to its members, SWAN hosts its own programs. Below are some of the programs we have hosted in the past. New programming is always in the works. Get in contact with us to find out what programs are currently running.
Self-Defense Classes - Krav Maga instructor Andrew periodically comes down from Western, MA to lead our self-defense classes. While classes are led by the instructor, content is crafted by SWAN members to reflect their own personal safety needs in street-based sex work.
Group Therapy - Led by a certified therapist, these trauma-informed groups are a safe space for members to share what has been weighin on them, as well as self care tips, breathing exercises, and healthier coping mechanisms. The current season of SWAN's group therapy sessions are focused on Self-Care On The Streets (SCOTS).
Focus Groups - When researchers, product designers, academics, and others solicit input or are looking to administer questionaires, etc, SWAN can act as an advocate and facilitator. Often these outside entities don't have sex workers' best interests in mind; SWAN makes sure that sex workers are paid for their time and treated with respect. These programs can also offer space for SWAN gather our own research information to help with grant applications and the like.
Story-Telling Groups - Everyone has a story to tell. These facilitated groups provide space for current and former sex workers to share their stories in a safe, trauma-informed setting. Our story-telling groups allow SWAN members to present their whole self, without facing judgement or stigma.
Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion
The Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program is a community-based police diversion approach to addressing those involved in the criminal justice system because of addiction, mental illness, and poverty. In LEAD, police officers exercise discretionary authority at point of contact to divert individuals to a community-based, harm reduction intervention for law violations driven by unmet behavioral health needs. In lieu of the normal criminal justice system cycle -- booking, detention, prosecution, conviction, incarceration -- individuals are instead referred into a trauma-informed intensive case-management program where the individual receives a wide range of support services, often including transitional and permanent housing and/or drug treatment.
The Sex Workers and Allies Network started in the aftermath of a rash of police arrests and attempts at public shaming of sex workers in the New Haven, Connecticut area. Activists united and successfully demanded an end to schemes by the New Haven police to conduct stings against sex workers.
The group continues to push for full decriminalization of sex work and drug use, in order to promote the health and well-being of people living on the streets. In support of these goals, SWAN does ongoing public community actions.
SWAN in the Media
City Slammed On LEAD Experiment Thomas Breen, New Haven Independent. September 27, 2018.
Between the Lines Radio Newsmagazine for the week ending December 29, 2017 Scott Harris, Between the Lines / PRX. December 29, 2017.
The International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers Calls for Decriminalization staff, Between the Lines. December 20, 2017.
50 March Against Sex Worker Violence, staff writer, New Haven Independent. December 18, 2017.
The Right to a Roof, Phoebe Chatfield, The Yale Herald. November 17, 2017.
Non-Jail Program for Low-Level Offenders Pitched in the Hill Thomas Breen, New Haven Independent. May 10, 2017. (Cross-posted to Katal Center Site.
Sex Workers and Allies Network (SWAN): Fighting for the Human Rights of Sex Workers, Maya Menlo and Patricia Kane, par-newhaven.org. January 1, 2017.
NHPD Suspends Prostitution Stings, staff reporter Sara Tabin, Yale Daily News, November 29, 2016.