From inception, Partners in Prevention Education has always been about engaging with the people we serve and believing in them as experts in their own community in order to identify gaps and develop solutions together. PiPE began as a demonstration project in 2004, when Rosalinda Noriega was contracted by the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs to outreach to and work in partnership with houseless and at-risk youth to develop a plan to prevent sexual violence in their communities.
Not long after, PiPE received funding from the Office of Crime Victims Advocacy to provide sexual assault services to houseless and at-risk youth and young adults in Thurston County, and became a federally recognized 501(c)(3) non-profit.
PiPE got further funding to support survivors of general crimes, founding the Queer Art Heals Your Heart support group in 2009, and began offering therapy to houseless LGBTQIA+ survivors of violence. PiPE moved into our current building, the Purple House, in 2012. This gave us a private office in the heart of downtown Olympia in which to provide services to our participants.
In 2015, Charlia Messinger joined PiPE as our new Executive Director. Starting at 12 hours a week, and with the help of PiPE’s Board of Directors and contract therapist, Nanc LaMusga, she grew PiPE’s services, hired on advocates and set PiPE’s drop-in hours. Charlia’s leadership and collective approach, as well as unwavering support of staff forming programs that uphold a social justice framework allowed PiPE to transform from its founders’ initial vision into the organization it is today while maintaining the heart of what makes PiPE special. This included recruiting new Board Members, overseeing staff and contractor changes, and writing grants that allowed PiPE to grow.
In 2017, Mika Semrow and Vanessa Di Benedetto were hired. They expanded PiPE’s drop-in hours to Fridays, open for women and transgender people, and started the support group, Your Choice. PiPE staff continued to collaborate with CYS’s Rosie’s Place and Stonewall Youth to outreach to young people, and began taking shared participants to Gabi’s Olympic Cards and Comics. Along with Charlia, they also began to build the infrastructure needed for PiPE to expand its services, take volunteers, and create a presence in the larger Olympia and Thurston county community.
PiPE received funding to hire Nina Carmichael as our Community Advocacy Coordinator and Eve Briarhart as our Mobile Advocate, and created a massage therapy program for our young adult participants. Nanc LaMusga, contract therapist, and Mika Semrow created the Trans Support Group, which is currently facilitated by Mika and Eve, and Nina Carmichael and Alexa Alberts, contract therapist, created the Healing Through Art survivor support group. PiPE began providing advocacy to attendees of Community Court, and works closely with community partners. Beyond our direct advocacy work with houseless survivors, we also engage with coalition groups such as the Vulnerability Index team and government-led initiatives such as the Hazardous Weather Task Force in order to ensure our participants’ voices and concerns are being represented.
As the landscape of houselessness in Olympia has continued to change drastically, so too has PiPE. Under the leadership of PiPE’s Coordinator Team, we’ve launched a massage therapy program and expanded our drop-in hours, the availability of our therapists, our advocacy programs, and the variety of support groups offered in our little purple house. However, we retain the core of what made and continues to make PiPE a place of community and comfort for our participants: we support and encourage our houseless and marginalized participants as they transform themselves and their communities. We value our participants deeply for who they are as people: their struggles, their humor, their compassion, and their fight to survive every day.
PiPE is low-barrier and uses a harm reduction and trauma-informed care framework, and is constantly taking feedback from participants on how to create a welcoming environment that centers their experiences and needs. As always, we plan to expand and improve our services. We have received a grant from the Office of Crime Victim Advocacy that will allow us to provide mobile advocacy, a support group for survivors of childhood violence and more services to LGBTQIA+ survivors, including gender-affirming supplies. We will continue our four support groups, our therapy, and massage therapy. We are inspired everyday by our participants’ knowledge and creativity, and use this as a guide to fill gaps in services. PiPE has changed drastically in its nearly two decades of existence, and we can’t wait to see where the future takes us!