VOCAL-TX is building a movement of low-income people dedicated to ending the AIDS epidemic, the war on drugs, mass incarceration, and homelessness across the country. We fight for systemic change rooted in justice, compassion, and love. We approach this work with a firm belief in reducing harm and ending stigma, and the knowledge that the issues impacting our communities are driven by institutional oppression, not personal failings.


VOCAL Texas (VOCAL-TX) was formed by building off the community organizing project of the Texas Harm Reduction Alliance (THRA). Founded by Mark Kinzly and Joy Rucker, THRA emerged in 2019 in response to unprecedented opioid overdose rates and apparent statewide need for harm reduction policy advocacy, education, and capacity building for direct services. THRA quickly became the primary syringe services provider in Austin, Texas and a leading voice fighting for systemic changes on the state and local levels. THRA successfully led a campaign to divest from law enforcement and reallocate funding for harm reduction services, served on the Reimagine Public Safety Taskforce, and helped drastically reduce low-level drug prosecutions in Austin.

In March of 2022 – building on years of successful advocacy work and recognizing the need for grassroots organizing – THRA launched an organizing project, modeled after VOCAL-NY. THRA adopted large parts of VOCAL-NY’s community organizing model: base building at methadone clinics, encampments, soup kitchens, homeless service providers, and building a strong team of community leaders. In addition to local organizing, THRA continued to support an alliance of harm reductionists fighting to end overdoses in their communities across Texas. After important victories, like winning free public transportation for people experiencing homelessness and investments to end overdose deaths in Austin, the organizing project spun off to become VOCAL-TX. 

VOCAL-TX joins VOCAL-KY as a new state chapter, modeled after VOCAL-NY, which was founded in 1999. VOCAL-NY and VOCAL-KY have saved and improved the lives of countless New Yorkers and Kentuckians, and we’re excited to support Texans to step into that same power.

Our Model

Our model of movement building draws inspiration from three traditions:




Our Staff

<strong>Paulette Soltani</strong>
Paulette Soltani
Paulette has over a decade of experience leading community organizing campaigns in New York State and Texas. Before moving to Texas, she worked at VOCAL-NY for six years, where she organized hundreds of low-income New Yorkers, led campaigns to win housing for people experiencing homelessness, and oversaw political strategy for the organization. In 2022 she moved to Austin to be closer to her parents and to became the Director of Organizing at the Texas Harm Reduction Alliance. She helped launch the organizing project at THRA, modeled after VOCAL-NY.

Before organizing at VOCAL-NY, Paulette worked at MFY Legal Services where she organized tenants precariously housed in “three-quarter houses.” She also worked as a union organizer, organizing graduate employees at the United Auto Workers-Region 9A and car wash workers at Make the Road New York. Paulette holds an M.A. from the CUNY Graduate Center and B.A. from Gonzaga University.
<strong>Cate Graziani</strong>
Cate Graziani
Soon after Mark Kinzley and Joy Rucker formed the Texas Harm Reduction Alliance, Cate joined the team as policy director, and continued their vision to build a statewide organization rooted in harm reduction values. In addition to tripling the size and impact of the services program, Cate added the training and organizing arm of THRA to build the people power necessary to change our culture and laws in Texas. Before joining THRA in 2019, Cate worked at Grassroots Leadership on the criminal justice team for four years.

Originally from CA by way of NC, Cate moved to Austin in 2011. Long before then, their experiences with using drugs and overdose inevitably led them to harm reduction. After earning a MPAff/MSSW, Cate worked for Mental Health America of Texas during the 2015 legislative session. That year, they helped pass SB 1462, the bill that expanded access to naloxone across Texas. In 2016, they were awarded a Fulbright research award to study Portugal’s drug decriminalization policy. For over a decade in Austin, they have organized their community to fight for abolition, harm reduction, and ​racial justice.
<strong>Eli Cortez</strong>
Eli Cortez
Eli grew up in Austin, Texas, where he attended the University of Texas and received his MSSW. Before joining the Texas Harm Reduction Alliance (THRA) in 2021, Eli supported campus organizing with other queer students of color to create supportive spaces on campus. They fought for the implementation of alternatives to incarceration as well as to fight for the peoples’ right to housing, care, and community. Eli joined THRA as a Training Coordinator and later transitioned into his role as Organizer. Eli manages VOCAL-TX’s organizing database and co-led base-building, leadership development, and mobilizations.
<strong>JJ Ramirez</strong>
JJ Ramirez
Born and raised in Odessa, Texas, JJ moved to Austin at the age of 15. After experiencing homelessness at 18, he joined the Navy and served honorably for six years. JJ later worked as a power plant operator at UT Austin. He later returned to school where he earned BA’s in both Government and Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. In 2022, JJ joined Texas Harm Reduction Alliance as an Organizer, and became a Policy Fellow with the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health. JJ is formerly incarcerated. He has a strong passion for union organizing, labor, housing issues, socialism, and racial equity. JJ co-leads base-building, leadership development, and mobilizations.