Saturday, December 02, 2006

Life on the ho stroll

I'm back in Arizona for a few days and one of the things I'm doing is spending time at a program founded to get working girls off the streets. The program was founded about a decade ago and it boasts an extraordinarily high success rate for taking women through a one-year program, cleaning them up, since so many of the gals are addicted, addressing their health needs (one girl we chatted with last night was 11 days from the due date of her fifth child), helping them further their education, and helping them find employment. Gals who enter the program must attend NA if they are addicts, and Prostitutes Anonymous.

Last night I accompanied two street outreach workers as they drove through the various Phoenix "strolls," pulling up beside the women and handing out a small packet that contains information about the program and other social services in Phoenix. It was about40 degrees, and since many of the girls wore few clothes, we had available socks, sweaters, water and snacks.

The outreach gals were careful not to approach the gals whose pimps were obviously hanging about nor girls about to transact business, but it surprised me how many of the gals came up to the vehicle to chat with us or take literature. Both the workers, former prostitutes, had street credibility (we heard one of the girls, a pretty Hispanic gal in her mid-twenties, say to her probable stable sister, as her pimped sisters are referred to if they work for the same pimp, "She used to be a ho").

It was difficult to see the women, some obviously still under 18 and many with such sweet faces, stand on corners. But as I quickly realized, the outreach workers are "planting the seed" so if the gals get sick and tired enough, or get busted because they run a diversion program funded in part by the City of Phoenix, they know there's somewhere to go.

But it was clear that the working girls or "prostituted women" as they're referred to by outreach, because few of them chose this life, most of them were exploited at an early age by pimps, liked seeing the outreach workers. "We love you!" one of the gals shouted as we drove past. The last words the outreach workers say as they pull away is "Be careful," because any car the gals enter may be their last. That is the grim reality of prostitution, although our society loves to glamorize the sex industry with movies like "Pretty Woman" or "Striptease." It crossed my mind that the love these women showed them was probably the only unconditional love they get, and many of them seemed hungry for it.

Some of the women we talked to were "circuit hos," which means their pimps move them from one city to another, usually along Interstate 10 or 44, when the city they're working in gets too hot (from the police, not the weather). The women, of course, work rain or shine, snow or blazing heat.

It's a grim life, a life like this. Last night I found myself dreaming of the gals on the stroll. For many years I've wanted to get involved in this type outreach. In a few weeks I'll be visiting a similar program in Kansas City and I hope in Chicago. I'm not sure what I can do where I'm located, but there's no similar program in St. Louis, so my wheels are clicking, as my wheels often are.

God has given me so much, he's given me my life back twice. I think if I could make a difference in some small way in the lives of women like this, society's dumping ground, it would be a very good thing. Until tomorrow, have a great day.


SCoUt said...

Important post.
There are so, so many ex-prostituted women in N.A. I always wish they could somehow reach out more to the ones still forced to be out there, but I know that's a stretch, not to mention, an outside issue.
That sounds like an awesome program. There is something similar in St. Paul/Mpls and I know several women who have made it out clean by their help.
Wow, if you could get something going in St. awesome.

Meg Moran said...

You say your "wheels click" . I say you have acheived a certain level of enlightnment. You are witnessing suffering, and rather than turning from it, you are putting your Gratitude into action. Namaste dear one. (I salute the light within you) As we enter what some of here call "Second Phase Sobriety" we challenge ourselves on a deeper level of spirituality IN ACTION. You seem to do that daily. God Bless your willingness.

Carly said...

I admire you beyond words for doing this. My sponsor started a similar program in the early 90s in a city in Washington state that is still going strong. There but for the grace of God. Bless you, and bless these women and girls.

Anonymous said...

BRAVO my friend. what a gift of service!
zillions !!! of good karma points notched up there....