Posted: Tuesday, February 26, 2008, 11:51 (GMT)
A Christian outreach for sex workers has told of its struggle to support women on the streets of London in a bid to raise awareness among the Christian community of the plight of sex workers in the capital.
Working in partnership with local organisations, Door of Hope offers refreshments, contraception and a listening ear to sex workers in the hope of building relationships with the women they encounter on the streets.
Debbie Shearing from Door of Hope told Premier's Woman to Woman show, "We are committed to long-term involvement in the lives of individuals caught up in prostitution and their families.
"We build relationships with the women we meet, getting to know them as a whole person. It is often through these encounters that they gain the confidence to access daytime services and make positive changes in their lives."
Door of Hope outreach teams are situated in areas between the City and the East End known for prostitution. The areas tend to be blighted by high unemployment, with many people living on low incomes or below the poverty, Shearing said.
“Poor education, poverty and domestic violence impact on families so severely as to cause both personal and family dysfunction,” she said. “All too often, those involved in street sex work become trapped in cycles of drug and alcohol abuse.
"Consequently, they are marginalised, isolated and discriminated against by their communities and families - they are robbed of traditional support networks, and their choices are limited even further," Shearing told Woman to Woman.
While Door of Hope regularly supports sex workers through their outreach programme, they also liaise with healthcare clinics, often accompanying sex workers to appointments, assist in re-housing women, referring them to employment training and supporting those suffering from domestic violence.
"It is tempting to regard street sex work as a faceless, insurmountable problem,” said Shearing. “Door of Hope challenges these common perceptions: each sex worker is an individual with needs, desires and aspirations.
“Each person has been shaped by their past and deserves the opportunity to make decisions about their future."