New GoFundMe supports ex-Prevention Point workers who called out dangerous conditions and harassment

“It became extremely apparent that the survivors were really suffering,” said one of the fundraiser’s organizers.

Prevention Point on the left, at the intersection of Kensington Avenue and Monmouth Street

Prevention Point on the left, at the intersection of Kensington Avenue and Monmouth Street

Kimberly Paynter / WHYY
michaelawinberg-2020-2

Three former employees who left Prevention Point Philadelphia after unsafe workplace experiences could get a five-figure influx of financial support from a new crowdfunding campaign.

It’s been about half a year since Chyna Parker, Tatyana Woodard and Courtney Lane shared harmful behavior they experienced from management at the Kensington harm reduction nonprofit with Billy Penn. They detailed transphobia, racism, abuse, dangerous conditions, and sexual assault.

Now, several grassroots orgs are pledging to help them recover.

“I thank them so much for making the GoFundMe,” said Chyna Parker, a Black, trans woman who worked at Prevention Point for two years and reported a sexual assault there from a fellow employee. “It shouldn’t have had to be this way. Prevention Point should have taken care of this and gotten us the therapy we need.”

About five months after Billy Penn’s story published, an Inquirer report uncovered even more issues at Prevention Point — from harassment and assault to unsanitary and unsafe conditions on site.

The crowdfunding effort to support former employees was organized by three local harm reduction/mutual aid groups:

“It became extremely apparent that the survivors were really suffering,” said Raani Begum, an organizer with Project SAFE and the Red Umbrella Alliance. “We were thinking, how do we support people so they can actually take care of themselves while they’re doing this work? Out of that came the GoFundMe.”

So far, the campaign has raised just over $1,600 of its $15,000 goal. The total amount the page receives in donation will be divided equally among Parker, Woodard and Lane.

They all say it’s been hard for them since they went public with their allegations against Prevention Point Philadelphia. They’ve heard from friends who still work there that there hasn’t been meaningful change at the organization.

Lane, who worked there for three and a half years and said she was pricked by a dirty needle while working, said she’s faced backlash from current employees. Recently, she went to a funeral for a former colleague who had passed away — and she saw some of them there.

“People around me were saying, how dare I come there and show up,” said Lane, who is Black and cisgender. “Like it was disrespectful of me to show up to my friend’s funeral, because of what I said about Prevention Point.”

It’s not just financial support that the former employees want. They and the participating organizations also wrote an open letter to Prevention Point listing their demands, which are:

  • An apology from Prevention Point
  • A staff-wide training on queer and trans rights
  • Reimbursements for lost wages for former and current staff for times when they had to cope with an unsafe environment, including therapy bills
  • Resignation of the entire leadership team and board of Prevention Point

It’s unclear whether Prevention Point leadership is considering those demands. The organization is led by long-time executive director José Benitez and head director Silvana Mazzella. A spokesperson for the nonprofit did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Both Parker and Lane hope to spend the money on therapy and other mental health support. Lane still works in harm reduction, and also bartends at night to help make ends meet. Her financial constraints mean she hasn’t even begun to scratch the surface on healing from her trauma yet.

Like her former colleagues, Woodard intends to spend some of the money on mental health — then put the rest toward her dream: a shelter designed to serve Black and brown trans women.

“So this doesn’t happen to anyone else,” said Woodard, a Black, trans woman who said she was sexually harassed while working at Prevention Point. “So people feel safe in the space. That’s what it’s about for me.”

In the meantime, former staffers are starting to feel better already. It’s validating, they said, that the participating organizations are acknowledging their pain in a real way.

“It’s validating, because I worked my ass off,” Lane said through tears. “When you hear people in support of you, it felt like something was lifted.”

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