PEOPLE
Volume 16 Number 3
Hope on the Street
01 June 2003

It's not often you see elderly church-going ladies baking chocolate cakes for prostitutes working the streets at night. But in Bristol that is exactly what's happening-with remarkable results.

It's not often you see elderly church-going ladies baking chocolate cakes for prostitutes working the streets at night. But in Bristol that is exactly what's happening-with remarkable results.

The One25 Project prefers not to reveal its location or to give the names of those involved. It began when three women, one a nun, were working at the Salvation Army drop-in centre in 1995. They realized that the prostitutes who came there needed particular kinds of support that they were not able to receive in a conventional centre.

Some 80 per cent of young women who get into prostitution are victims of abuse and all have had a significant break-up from their families at some time or another. Almost half have been in care.

Like others who have been abused, these women have been made to feel worthless and unvalued and they are ready to clutch at any way of feeling better so as to hold together a tattered sense of self. Short-cuts include taking drugs, or maintaining a relationship with a jealously abusive boyfriend. But drugs cost money and this is what leads most girls onto the streets.

So the three women found money for a van, and volunteers started by taking flasks of hot coffee, chocolate cake and condoms out to these vulnerable young women. The contact meant the volunteers could also provide a listening ear and advice. In 1995 the project set up a drop-in centre of its own, which has since been running most afternoons. The women use its creche for their kids, enjoy a comfortable sofa to sleep on, and find the environment friendly and supportive.

But the One25 Project is much more than that. Its founders' Christian philosophy has enabled them to involve churches in the surrounding area. They have overcome prejudice and helped churchgoers to understand that these women are victims who, with support over a long period, can begin to take themselves out of the cycle of drugs, abuse and prostitution.

One worker says that her faith has helped her 'to see the windows in people's lives where they are open to the possibility of some change'. That same worker was also amazed and heartened by one woman's response after her child had been taken into care for adoption. 'This life is no life for a child,' she said, 'I want her to have the start I never did.'
Caz and Sandy Hore-Ruthven


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