Turning Lives Around puts Housing First for women sex workers

Turning Lives Around puts Housing First for women sex workers

LEEDS based housing charity, Turning Lives Around, has pioneered a new scheme that will enable on-street sex workers to secure and maintain permanent accommodation which will help to improve the communities where they work.

Housing First builds on the work that TLA has pioneered in West Yorkshire of helping those most vulnerable in society to build a better future by preventing homelessness and will initially provide six on-street sex workers with homes that will eventually see them take on tenancies for themselves.

The pilot scheme is being launched in response to the needs of both the women and the residents of the communities in which they live and work.  It is designed to give them access to safe housing and an alternative to a life on the streets.  TLA hope that by helping prevent homelessness for the women they will be able to leave behind the threat of violence they face on the streets as well as helping them tackle other prolems associated with on street sex working.

With a dedicated support worker, the women will be given the chance to choose where they would like to live with TLA initially taking on the tenancies.  TLA has also employed a part time support worker who will provide intensive support with health, mental health, substance abuse and offending to help them take the first steps to turning their lives around and adopting a more fulfilling lifestyle. 

Financially supported by the Tudor Trust, funding has been awarded for a three-year project for six women at any time.  TLA CEO, Janet Spencer said that she was ambitious the project would help more women as those involved took on their own tenancies.

“This programme is a direct response to the needs of on-street sex workers who face social exclusion, stigmatization, limited or no access to mainstream housing and other barriers to healthcare, and other support.   We are employing a dedicated support worker, Sue Oates, who is both experienced in this field and is as ambitious as TLA to end the cycle of abuse that limits the life choices for these women and the communities they live in.

“Initially we will hold the tenancy and as they become more independent through our bespoke support we hope to transfer the tenancy to the women,” she added.  “TLA’s Housing First is not prescriptive about the lives these women lead so we make no demands that they change their lifestyle. But, we know from experience that access to secure housing in stable communities drives forward positive changes in lifestyle.

“TLA has more than 40 years’ experience of working with people at the margins of society.  On-street sex workers are like many of our other clients.  They suffer mental health issues, substance abuse problems and social exclusion.  A settled home is beyond their reach.  Providing that home is the first step to these clients gaining control and provides the foundation for them to make informed life choices. 

Sue Oates said: “These women have often drifted into on-street sex work as a direct result of other factors such as substance abuse, crime or mental health problems.  Most are desperate to break the cycle of abuse.   Their biggest barrier to a normal life is a lack of good quality affordable housing in a settled community.  Housing First gives them both a choice and chance.”