RESTING SAFE Environmental Justice Toolkit

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Drawing on our phone survey, in-person interviews, and personal experience, our RESTING SAFE EJ Toolkit includes a series of resources created by and for houseless people, designed to support DIY mitigation of hazards. So far, we have created pamphlets and posters with tips for addressing mold, fire in various forms (i.e., open-flame heating and cooking, wildfires, arson), and rodents.

We are also currently developing protocols, creating short online video tutorials, and compiling easy-to-use kits for communities to test for localized air pollution using a very cool, low-cost technique: collecting spiderwebs and sending them to Chris Hawn at UMBC for analysis for diesel particulate matter and other harmful substances. We have heard from at least one community that they hope to test air quality in their current site near a highway, as well as in another nearby site, to decide if they should move due to toxic fumes. We have spoken with another community that is interested in learning more about the air they breathe, and potentially collaborating with neighbors to hold a local polluter accountable. All data collected and analyzed on behalf of houseless communities will be “owned” by those communities (rather than researchers), and our team is available to support follow-up decision-making processes.

Undergirding this EJ Toolkit tactic is an understanding that public agencies can rarely be counted on to intervene in the interests of houseless people—whether day-to-day, during extreme weather events, or following disasters. A response that simultaneously addresses immediate threats to survival, at the same time as it builds political consciousness that informs collective action against sweeps and other forms of violence pushing people into dangerous places, is necessary.

We have begun disseminating the EJ Toolkit around Portland, Oregon and Baltimore, Maryland, and will soon make pamphlets available to houseless communities across the US.

See below for a sampling of our Toolkit pamphlets and posters; please email us at restingsafe@uoregon.edu or r2spdx@gmail.com if you’d like us to mail you paper copies!

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Mold & Mildew

Mold and mildew can wreak havoc on our bodies, and many people suffer from symptoms that they don’t realize are due to mold. Symptoms can range from runny nose, headaches, rashes, fatigue, depression, and memory problems, to more serious health problems such as respiratory or neurological conditions. Mold exposure has also been found to be associated with cancers.

Mold grows on material with a high cellulose and low nitrogen content, such as fiberboard, gypsum board, paper, dust, and lint, as well as on tents, tarps, and interior walls. Mold growth occurs when there is moisture from water damage, excessive humidity, water leaks, condensation, water infiltration, or flooding. Constant moisture is required for its growth. It is not necessary to determine what type of mold you may have. All molds should be treated the same with respect to potential health risks and removal.

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Diesel Particulate Matter

We are currently developing protocols and short video tutorials for collecting and testing spider webs, in order to learn about diesel particulate matter. Stay tuned for details…