Project Prevent

Student-run organization helps homeless during pandemic.

Everyone has struggled during the pandemic, but Seattle’s homeless population is an exceptionally impacted group, and one that doesn’t often receive as much attention. Project Prevent is a student-run, non-profit organization focused on providing COVID-19 prevention supplies for the housing insecure. The fifteen project members create and dispense kits to prevent the spread of the virus. So far, they have distributed over 5,500 kits and raised over $25,000 in donations.

John Schwarz-Torres founded the project in March of 2020 to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 among the homeless population in Seattle.

“There’s obviously a huge problem here with housing insecurity, it’s very clear to everyone who lives in the city,” Schwarz-Torres said.

Originally, the goal was to make 100 kits. “We didn’t really expect much at all. Our expectations have been blown away,” Schwarz-Torres said.

As the project continued, expansion was necessary to accommodate the amount of kits being produced. In recent months, Project Prevent introduced a new ambassador program to expand their team and increase production. Asha Budge, who joined as an ambassador, explained that in addition to assembling kits, she is also responsible for picking up supplies and delivering them to other members’ houses.

Each kit is composed of items necessary for preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus. This includes disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer, latex gloves, disposable and reusable masks, and information pamphlets. The kits also provide socks and menstrual products.

“[Socks are] really important, mostly just for warmth, and you would think most people have access to that, but they don’t,” Budge said.

Supplies for the kits are kept in a storage locker, which is visited weekly. During the week, team members put together kits on their own time, which are all collected and delivered to the homeless the following weekend.

The project is financially supported by online fundraisers and donations.

“There’s a spot to donate right on our page,” Budge said. “We mostly rely on donations, but they don’t have to be monetary. I have a bunch of socks on my porch right now that my neighbors have donated.”

Recently, Project Prevent began a partnership with Garfield’s chapter of PERIOD, a global non-profit organization focused on fighting period poverty and stigma.

“They’re holding a menstrual product drive over the next few months, and then they’re going to give their products to Prevent…to use in our kits,” said Budge, who is also a member of PERIOD at GHS.

Project Prevent was founded by seniors, so the future of the project after graduation is still unknown.

“We have a couple freshmen and sophomores, so hopefully they’ll be able to carry it on,” Budge said.

It is possible that the project could continue even after the pandemic, since the homeless population could always use more support.

“It is something that’s been very rewarding to do and we’ll look to continue it,” Schwarz-Torres said. “I think we could find another way to help.”

According to Budge, the most important part of the project is who they are helping. 

“It’s people that really need it,” Budge said. “I’m in a bad situation, because it’s a pandemic, and they’re in such a more difficult situation, and I think that’s really where the heart of this project is.”

“It’s just really rewarding to do, and it feels good to really affect your community, especially on a scale that you never thought was possible,” Schwarz-Torres said. “The support that we’ve got from the community is really uplifting and it really shows how strong the Seattle community is.”

For Budge, working with Project Prevent has helped her recognize her own privilege and find ways to share that with others.

“[I’ve learned] really just how lucky I am, to have this beautiful house, and all my family around me, and what I can do to make a difference,” Budge said.

Project Prevent is still looking for more members to help make even more kits.

“The ambassador program is really easy…and I think everyone should want to get involved,” Budge said. “I really just think the more people we have the more we can help.”


Photos taken by Melanie Blair