This week in Bristol and Me, we speak to Anna Smith, CEO of One25
One25 supports women who street sex work to take the brave step away from the streets. Our van goes out every weeknight as a first point of contact where women can find emotional and practical support. We give out umbrellas, hot drinks, blankets, condoms, food, and take immediate action if someone is at risk, making stops at A&E or women’s hostels. We aim to be a beacon of hope, and hopefully encourage women to attend our drop-in, where we can do some deeper work on the challenges they’re facing.
The drop-in is a lovely safe space, perhaps the only place where the women can feel valued, loved and cared about. They can lie on a sofa, have a freshly prepared hot meal, or talk to a caseworker. If they’re a victim of crime, for example, we’ll advocate for them through the criminal justice system. We’ll also offer support on issues including domestic and sexual violence, mental health support, housing, drug and alcohol, complex needs; whatever helps remove the barriers that led them to street sex work.
People don’t understand the incredible vulnerabilities and dangers the women face. They’re not working out of choice, they’re working to pay rent, to eat – to survive. Poverty is a massive driver – many of the women we meet only eat via One25. They’re very rarely from a supported, loving background – it’s usually deprivation from an early age – and are often controlled by pimps or sleeping in very unsafe accommodation in exchange for sex.
We see women trying to exit sex work, and something happens – problems with Universal Credit, for instance – that draws them back.
Our new service, Peony, tries to ensure the exit is permanent, offering practical support – cooking, debt management, etc – and wellbeing activities such as yoga or rock climbing. We also run Pause Bristol, working with women who’ve had two or more children permanently moved into care.
Besides 35 full- and part-time staff we have 200 volunteers; we couldn’t run our services without fantastic support from the local community. Anyone wanting to help should visit our website.