El/La to get anti-violence funding
by Seth Hemmelgarn
The San Francisco Human Rights Commission has announced that it's awarding up to $200,000 in anti-violence funding to an organization that helps transgender Latinas.
El/La Para TransLatinas, a Mission district-based education and outreach group that's primarily been focused on HIV prevention but also addresses violence, is expected to use the money for violence prevention and intervention services for trans Latinas in the neighborhood.
Earlier this year, many expressed increased concerns about attacks on trans women in the Mission and other parts of the city.
"Keeping San Francisco the safest big city in the United States requires successful partnerships with our diverse communities and neighborhoods," Mayor Ed Lee said in a December 4 HRC news release. "This new partnership between the Human Rights Commission and El/La will make our city and our communities safer for everyone."
HRC Executive Director Theresa Sparks, who's transgender, stated, "We are proud of El/La's efforts to address violence against the trans Latina community and look forward to working with El/La in order to increase safety in the Mission."
In an interview, El/La program director Marcia Ochoa said her agency's "really honored" that Lee, the HRC, and the Board of Supervisors, which provided the funds, "have faith in our ability to do this work. We really work from our hearts." Ochoa added that the population El/La works with is "one of the most marginalized in San Francisco."
Among other plans, Ochoa said the group is proposing a program in which, during the first year, 12 trans Latina participants will be trained to be luchadoras, which translates to "fighters."
These will be "peer advocates who can provide supervised case management, health, and rights education to other trans Latinas," the organization's funding proposal states.
"We're training the luchadoras, who will work within the trans Latina community and greater Latino community to raise awareness" about transphobic and intimate partner violence, along with other issues. The aim is also "to reduce some of the myths people have about how they should expect to be treated by law enforcement and different institutions," said Ochoa.
Trans women in San Francisco have often been reluctant to report crimes because they don't trust the police and face language barriers and other issues, advocates have said.
El/La also expects to expand staff, and it will also open earlier in the afternoon beginning February 1. The organization has a budget of about $156,000, not including the grant money. That additional funding is for one year.
The Board of Supervisors gave the HRC $200,000 in add-back funding to address ongoing violence against trans Latinas. The commission issued a request for proposal "from community-based organizations working on violence prevention with the trans Latina community" and decided that El/La was the best fit, according to the news release. Only a handful of organizations in San Francisco do work similar to El/La.
Gay Supervisor David Campos, whose District 9 includes the Mission, stated, "El/La has a strong track record of engaging, supporting, and informing trans Latinas" in the neighborhood "and I am thrilled that they will now be able to expand and deepen their role in the community through this grant. I look forward to continue working with the Human Rights Commission and the trans Latina community in our district in order to ensure that our neighborhood is safe for everyone."
According to the HRC, "Since 2010, the district attorney's office has reviewed 13 transgender hate crimes cases and brought charges in nine of them, resulting in seven convictions."
District Attorney George Gasc—n stated, "My office will continue to work on violence reduction policies that will help make our community safer."
Police have noted incidents where transgender women are victims may also include crimes such as robberies, where the women aren't necessarily targeted for their gender identity.
El/La is a fiscally sponsored program of the Castro district-based Lavender Youth Recreation and Information Center.