We are a small corps of volunteers who live in Red Hook and are working to make sure supplies, resources, and information are as inclusive, comprehensive, and accessible as possible to everyone in the neighborhood. Our concerns about accessibility led us to create a phone line early in the pandemic, and community need and our role within it is still evolving, as shown in the wide range of initiatives over the past year. We maintain personal relationships with each of the callers to our phone line, and we envision eventually transitioning to neighborhood partnerships that serve as an effort to integrate and to dismantle the housing and cultural segregation that exists today in Red Hook.

Mutual aid has been a part of all large, powerful social movements, and it has a particularly large role to play right now, as we face unprecedented dangers and opportunities for mobilization...at its best, mutual aid actually produces new ways of living where people create systems of care and generosity that address harm and foster well-being.

Dean Spade, Mutual Aid:
Building Solidarity During This Crisis (and the Next)



It is Red Hook Mutual Aid’s goal to establish accessible and inclusive ways to share resources and support vulnerable neighbors with what they need, as well as build a shared understanding of why people do not have what they need. Mutual aid is as much about addressing immediate needs as it is about building solidarity. Under capitalism, social problems resulting from exploitation and the maldistribution of resources are understood as individual moral failings, not systemic problems. We are aware that the systems we have in place will not meet those needs, so we work in conjunction with community-based organizations to help distribute resources and information.


OUR STORY & INITIATIVES

What is mutual aid?

Mutual aid is a term to describe people giving each other needed material support, trying to resist the control dynamics, hierarchies and system-affirming, oppressive arrangements of charity and social services. Mutual aid projects are a form of political participation in which people take responsibility for caring for one another and changing political conditions, not just through symbolic acts or putting pressure on their representatives in government, but by actually building new social relations that are more survivable.



Community Phone Support

In late April 2020, we sent out direct mail flyers to all of Red Hook sharing our phone number and offering to help connect residents to resources, and we followed up with posters in August. We saw how many community-based organizations had responded to Covid, and we wanted to make sure all of those resources and aid were accessible to all, given that the pandemic created a situation where most aid was shared through social media and enrollment through google forms. To ensure that no one was left on the wrong side of the digital divide, we have created community phone support as a texting and call-back system, available in English, Spanish, Mandarin, Arabic, and Russian. We are able to enroll callers in aid directly over the phone, serving as their proxy on computers. Anyone can call (646) 484-9677 with any question or request, and we will do our best to help.





Resource List & Weekly Newsletter

Our resource list was compiled in April 2020 and a weekly newsletter launched in May 2020. Both compile updates from community-based and city organizations that detail resources pertinent to Red Hook residents. Our newsletter is bilingual in Spanish and English and our resource list can also be used as a searchable resource directory for volunteers fielding calls. Live documents are available with updates on food distribution (tinyurl.com/redhookfood) and youth opportunities (tinyurl.com/redhookyouth).





Direct Aid: PCP

Mutual aid prioritizes supplies created within the community, and during the Covid pandemic we have distributed masks made by Anne O’Neil and sanitizer by Van Brunt Stillhouse to callers. Delivering these supplies to each caller through community phone support has allowed us to forge a personal relationship with households from their first call.




Cash Assistance

RHMA’s primary function is to route community members to preexisting financial assistance like HRA, but we also have raised funds for direct assistance when necessary. This funding allows us to enact the initiatives described on this page, as well as make donations to community-based organizations like Red Hook Relief and New BLQK Leaders (featured in this episode of This American Life!). We support the #EnoughForAll movement; anyone who wants to redistribute part or all of their stimulus payments can route it back into the community through RHMA.




Direct Aid: Air Conditioners

We helped many of our contacts enroll in NYCHA's AC program in summer 2020, but delivery was delayed through several heatwaves, at which point we purchased and delivered ACs and brackets ourselves, installing them when necessary.






Text Updates

In building community phone support, we realized that one of the most accessible and effective ways to communicate is through text messaging. Despite the fact that the vast majority of our network is seniors, all but a handful are able to text. We send out text updates whenever we receive relevant information on food distribution, community meetings, weather events, etc. This emulates the Notify New York text updates on a hyperlocal level but each text is sent individually, allowing responses and questions. This process allows us to remain in regular contact with our network, despite being a small corps. Texting allows multiple team members to see conversations and respond much more quickly than call-backs - those in our network can text us at any time, with any question, request, or just to say hi.








Voter Registration

RHMA made sure everyone in our network was registered to vote and had applied for their absentee ballots - when necessary, we helped with that process. We also registered several first-time voters, and on a few occasions, we walked them to the polling site.

FEMA Emergency Supplies

During hurricane season of 2019, we assisted every household in our network in the process of putting together their emergency plan and supply kit. We shared a complete list of recommended emergency supplies and helped each member of our network secure any three items. We delivered personalized emergency kits in October 2020.



Holiday Care Packages

A donation from Netflix following a shoot in Red Hook allowed us to create Christmas packages for every member of our network. Anne O’Neil designed and printed personalized RHMA totes, which we filled with hams, home-made cookies, at-cost donations from local businesses tea/cocoa, winter hats/scarves, personalized requests, poinsettias from Chelsea Garden Center, and any personal requests. Care packages were delivered Christmas morning in 2020.





Vaccination Scheduling

At this point we have scheduled over 60 vaccination appointments for seniors in our network as well as their family members. We have provided car service to and from vaccination appointments when necessary. For information on getting vaccinated, see our resource guide; for assistance making an appointment, contact us at (646) 484-9677.





Personalized Care

Because of the structure of our phone system set-up, we are able to interact with households in our network on an individual level and provide them with personalized support when they need it. We have sent flowers following diagnoses, purchased medical supplies when needed, brought teas and syrup when someone has a cold. We keep track of doctors appointments and surgeries and call to check in afterwards. We always prioritize goods created within our community.







Ioby Campaign

Our fiscal sponsor Ioby has allowed mutual aid groups to fundraise without the normal fees or need for 501C-3 status. Community need and our role within it is still evolving, and we continue to raise our donation goal to meet new initiatives possible and have emergency funds on hand. Since a lot of the aid that was set up early on in the pandemic is waning, this is now more important than ever.​​​​​​ Support our initiatives at tinyurl.com/redhookdonate.