TURNING Lives Around is committed to preventing homelessness. Sometime that needs radical interventions.
On-street sex workers are among the most marginalised in the country. Shunned by society, often addicted and they can expoerience mental health problems they are at risk of physical and sexual abuse and worse.
Many end up on the streets as a result of an addiction and then descend into a vicious spiral which leaves them feeling out of control and locked into a rapid decline of further addiction and abuse.
To tackle this and break the circle TLA established a collaborative working pilot with Basis, a charity which works with women who sex work.
The aim is to provide women with a home, support to help them access health care to end their addiction, tackle any physical ailments they suffer and help with mental health issues. Long term we aim to help them set some education and career goals, help them rebuild family relationships and re-integrate into stable communities.
Jackie came to us three months again after two decades of addiction and on-street sex working.
“I got hooked through an old boyfriend. I started shoplifting and stealing and sick of being broke I started walking the streets because a girl I knew always had money and I didn’t.
“For the next 15 years I worked on the streets, I had nowhere that was my own and my relationship with my mum and dad broke down.
“It was terrible because I had had a good upbringing with strong family values, but drugs take over, the prostitution is a means to an end. Worse, I had no home of my own so would ask men if I could go back to theirs. To do that I had to earn enough money for my drugs and theirs.
“The days were never quiet. All I remember is hearing doors opening and banging and wondering if it was someone dealing drugs, someone about to assault me or rape me or worse.”
Prison became a release for Jackie, but it was after one stretch inside that she decided to change her life.
“I had met Sue from TLA when the Basis van came on the streets. They brought warm drinks, a bit of peace and the chance to speak to normal people. I knew they could help.
“They have had a massive difference. Sue helped me get my home. She helped me get all the things I wanted for it. Then she sorted out a script so I can start tackling my drugs habit.
“I wrote a letter to my mum; ‘This is the letter you always wanted to receive and the letter I always wanted to send,’ I wrote to her.
“I love my little house. I love sitting on the sofa, watching tv, drinking a brew and eating a biscuit. The silence is bliss.”
Janet Spencer is CEO of TLA. She said: “Housing First gives on-street sex workers the chance to break the abusive circle of drug addiction and sex working. By providing the safety and security of a home the women can rebuild their relationships with family and friends. A home gives them a place to call their own and the chance to leave behind those who were undermining and controlling them. In control of their own bodies they become liberated and appreciate what they could truly make of their lives.”