Helping street sex workers break the cycle of homelessness
A pioneering project has proven successful in helping women sex workers escape a downward spiral – and in one case was a life-saver.
The Leeds pilot scheme saw women’s charity Basis Yorkshire use an approach known as “Housing First” to secure homes for a number of sex workers with extremely complex needs.
Thought to be the first of its kind in the country, the project has been evaluated by a researcher from the University of Leeds – her report is published today.
Gemma Sciré, CEO of Basis Yorkshire, said: “Our non-judgemental, unconditional and flexible approach to working with sex workers is focused on reducing harm and providing choices for women. It made our service an ideal fit with Housing First.”
With little women-only housing provision in the city and high levels of sexual and domestic violence risks associated with street sex work, Basis identified an urgent need for a service that was driven by women’s experiences, applying the principles of Housing First.
Housing First provides permanent, affordable and safe housing as quickly as possible – backed by the unconditional support people need to stay in their new homes.
The Leeds project started in November 2016, funded by the Big Lottery Fund and West Yorkshire Finding Independence (WY-FI)’s Innovation Fund. Its aims were to relieve homelessness, alcohol and drug use, reoffending and mental health issues. It also provided a dedicated caseworker from Basis Yorkshire and a housing support worker from Leeds homeless charity Foundation.
Report author Emma Bimpson, from the University’s School of Sociology and Social Policy, said: “The journey these women took through the project was far from straightforward and at times chaotic, so the intensive and immediate support provided by Basis’ support worker and by Foundation’s tenancy manager was absolutely vital.”