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Community Partner of the Month | SPARC (Sex workers Promoting Action, Risk reduction, and Community mobilization)

We’re proud to recognize SPARC (Sex workers Promoting Action, Risk reduction, and Community mobilization), as the Community Partner of the Month. Read on to learn more about SPARC and their experience as an MVLS Community Partner.

How long have you been in existence, and what is your organization’s mission?  
SPARC was founded in 2017 to increase community access to judgement-free, low-barrier, free harm reduction services tailored to the specific needs of women, nonbinary folks, and non-men who use drugs and sell sex in Southwest Baltimore, MD.

What/who/how do you serve your community?   
We offer various harm reduction, healthcare, and support services at our Center in Pigtown (908 Washington Blvd, Baltimore, MD). We are open Monday through Thursday from 11 am to 4 pm. To provide low-barrier services to people who use drugs and/or engage in sex work in mind, all these services are available at no cost, with no insurance and no ID required. At the Center, we welcome participants to pick up supplies, connect with our staff for services, peruse our clothing rack, drop off laundry, or make a cup of coffee.

Initially, most SPARC services were offered at our full-service drop-in Center. In early 2020, however, we began expanding our outreach program in direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic – beginning to provide mobile or “door” delivery-based harm reduction services, where we were going out into the community and delivering supplies directly to participants. The goal was to continue to provide low-barrier, community-based harm reduction services at a time when resources, supplies, and transportation had become even more challenging to access, especially for people who use drugs and trade or sell sex.  

Since then, we’ve continued to expand and develop our mobile outreach services in response to growing community interest in these services. We now offer mobile delivery of nearly all our services to Southwest Baltimore and offer them at our Center.

Our harm reduction supplies, available at the Center for pick up or through our mobile outreach, include safer substance use supplies for people who use substances, including safer smoking, snorting, and injection. To support safety around substance use, this also includes Narcan and testing strips for both Fentanyl and xylazine, which are essential for fighting the city’s rates of fatal overdoses. As harm reduction is broader than just substance use, we also offer safer sex kits, wound care supply kits, and hygiene bags to all of our participants at the Center and through our mobile services.

We also have an incredible care team that offers more robust medical and social services at our Center and, increasingly, through mobile outreach. Our healthcare team provides a range of preventative care, such as vaccinations and wound care, as well as reproductive health options, such as STI and HIV testing and treatment, birth control, pregnancy testing, and HIV prevention. We also offer a mobile medical program to get treatment services, in the form of buprenorphine, out to our participants. Our social services team provides case management, counseling, and referrals to many of our service provider partners in the city. 

But regardless of where we meet, we are invested in creating a safe and welcoming connection for our participants.

Why do you think it’s important to work with a legal services program, like MVLS? 
Community support and partnerships have been key to SPARC’s growth and continued ability to offer a wide range of low-barrier, free services to participants.  Organizations providing free legal services such as MVLS have been instrumental in helping community members that we work with to navigate complex civil legal issues-such as criminal record relief, landlord/tenant issues, and custody issues-which can often pose as barriers to accessing employment, housing, education, and social services like benefits.

Is there anything upcoming you would like to highlight or promote?
If you are anyone you know is interested in learning more about SPARC or our services, please contact us at (410) 624-7554.  If you are interested in learning more about our mobile delivery-based services in Southwest Baltimore, please reach out to us at (602) 935-7554.